A little over a week after taking office the Balearic Councillor for Tourism, Miquel Ferrer, was dismissed from his post last Friday together with two other members of the Unió Mallorquina party, Miquel Àngel Grimalt (Councillor for the Environment) and Mateu Cañellas (Councillor for Sport).
The President of the Balearic Government, Francesc Antich, was forced to break up the centre-left coalition, formed by the PSOE and UM parties in 2007, following anti-corruption investigations which have led to the detention of 15 members of the Mallorcan Unionist party as part of 'Operation Vulture' which is looking into alleged bribery, corruption and misappropriation of public funds within the Balearic Institute for Tourism Strategy (INESTUR).
Eight of those arrested in the operation, which began last Wednesday, had been released by Saturday. Amongst the seven still being held were Joan Sastre (Director General for Tourism Promotion), Antoni Oliver (Director General for Environmental Quality), Miquel Nadal (former Councillor for Tourism), Miquel Àngel Flaquer (ex-President of the UM), Álvaro Llompart (the UM's accountant) and Antoni Rebassa (responsible for INESTUR's finances). Following their appearance in court on Saturday, the public prosecutor's office asked for bail to be set at 100,000 euros. Failure to pay this sum within 72 hours will result in those charged being sent to prison. A Pollença businessman, Mateu M.A. and his partner, María Lourdes P.S., with links to a group of travel agents and estate agents, are also being questioned in connection with the case.
According to the "Diario de Mallorca", the investigation is centred on contracts made by INESTUR, outside the legal guidelines, simulating other offers, to the benefit of people linked to the UM party. The scheme was operated between 2007 and 2009 so the potential number of irregular actions is high. One of the suppositions under investigation is that many of the services paid for with public funds never actually materialised. Police experts now have to analyse all the documents confiscated during the searches of INESTUR.
'Operació Voltor', which could also affect other areas of the Balearic Government such as the Balearic Institute of Tourism (IBATUR), follows a series of alleged corruption cases in Mallorca ('Can Domenge', 'Son Oms', and 'Maquillaje') implicating Maria Antònia Munar, the Honorary President of the UM and former President of the Majorca Council.
The dismissal of the three members of the government has also led to UM Councillors being ousted from both the Island Council of Mallorca and Palma Council.
Joana Barceló for Tourism
The President of the Balearic Government has used the dismissal of the three UM Concillors as an opportunity for a reshuffle and to reduce the number of government departments.
The vacancy left by Miquel Ferrer at the head of the Department of Tourism will be filled by Joana Barceló, formerly the Regional Councillor for Labour and Training and prior to that, President of the Island Council of Menorca. At her request, she will continue in her role as spokesperson for the government.
Pere Aguiló will succeed Barceló as Councillor for Labour and Training. The regional departments of the environment, sports and youth will be integrated into other departments, with Gabriel Vicens, the Councillor for Town and Country Planning assuming the mantle of Environment and Fina Santiago taking on Youth in addition to Social Affairs. The President of the Government, Francesc Antich will assume responsibility for Sport; while Jaume Carbonero will become Director General for Infrastructure as well as Councillor for Public Works and Housing.