Luis Roldán in that country of extraordinary things

Luis Roldán in that country of extraordinary things

In that Spain of extraordinary things you could be a policeman and a thief at the same time. Even more: police chief and prominent thief. Disguise and escape. Appearing in a remote country and being falsely arrested by an actor posing as the captain of an exotic country. It was possible and it happened, but nothing was ever the same again. Luis Roldán, who was director of the Civil Guard, died this Thursday in Zaragoza. Almost forty years ago, Roldán inflated his resume and at the same time the dream of the young Spanish democracy. Until bursting it and leaving everything lost in pieces (of reality).

In the Spain of the extraordinary things of the mid-1980s, a socialist politician became director of the Civil Guard, the first that the institution had that neither wore a uniform nor had been educated in a military academy. But it is that Luis Roldán always had the ability to be where he should be, just at the right time. He joined the PSOE in 1976, when he was 33 years old and the dictator had died. It didn't take long for him to hold a position, that of councilor in Zaragoza, his city, an excellent school to delve into the art of 'pasilleo' and pats on the back.

So, when the mayor of Zaragoza Ramón Sainz de Baranda rejected the position of Government delegate in Navarra, there was Luis Roldán, accepting the recommendation that his boss in municipal politics made of him. Although he was for a position as risky as that of representative of the State and coordinator of its Security Forces in Navarra at a time when ETA was dedicated to killing with intensity. He was relatively young and amply prepared, with two university degrees that adorned his resume but that he had not attended.

In an interview in The Country in 2010, after leaving prison, Luis Roldán admitted that his first bonus was received as a delegate of the Government in Navarra, 6 million pesetas (36,000 euros) of the funds reserved in 1982. A kind of dangerous bonus without declaring it to the Treasury. According to his conviction, the three government delegates in Euskadi also received. For police chiefs, 500,000 pesetas (3,000 euros) as "free disposal". "I considered that this bonus was normal," he assured many years after the succession of scandals. It had all started three decades ago.

It is 1982 and the two essential elements in the history of Luis Roldán have already appeared: ETA and the reserved funds. The enormous challenge of terror and the sometimes uncontrolled response of the State. Fertile ground for unscrupulous types. In 1986, General José Antonio Sáenz de Santamaría went into the reserve and the Government of Felipe González elected Luis Roldán director of the Civil Guard. "There are two stages of Luis Roldán. The first was good, he modernized the Corps and there were great successes in the fight against terrorism. They wanted him in the Civil Guard." The person speaking to is Rafael Vera, Secretary of State for Security at the time, Luis Roldán's immediate superior, later convicted of his involvement in GAL terrorism and embezzlement of reserved funds.

"But after [continúa Vera] it twisted It was more or less when he separated from his wife. He changed his life. The arrogance took possession of him”, assures the number two of the ministers Barrionuevo and Corcuera. Indeed, during the time of Luis Roldán, the Civil Guard abandoned the image of the couple in three-cornered hats, off-road patrols arrived… And also the great blows to ETA, the most important: the fall of the leadership of the gang in Bidart.

The courts eventually condemned Luis Roldán for having irregularly appropriated 1,700 million pesetas (more than 10 million euros), although not all of it came from the reserved funds. The director of the Civil Guard knew what carpet he was stepping on, that of the institution that made the State present even in its most indomitable corners, with its barracks, posts, command posts... The type of gigantic infrastructure that has been the favorite of the big construction companies to sustain the ecosystem of corruption in Spain for decades.

In 1993, the name of Luis Roldán sounded like Minister of the Interior. But on December 23, a cover of Diario 16 added his name to that of the great scandals that the Government of Felipe González was dragging, such as the irregular financing of Filesa or the perks of Alfonso Guerra's brother. "Luis Roldán's assets have increased by 400 million since he became director of the Civil Guard," read that headline.

In the following four months, Roldán fought back. He defended the origin of his patrimony, denounced a political hunt... and obtained the support of his superiors. Minister José Luis Corcuera, mortally wounded after the ruling of the Constitutional Court against his "law kicking the door" that intended to let the Police enter private homes without a court order, was one of those who supported him. The case de Roldán came to court and the defendant came to appear, while information continued to appear about his excessive wealth in Paris or in the Caribbean.On April 27, 1994, Luis Roldán did not appear for his appointment in Ana Ferrer's court. The Minister of the Interior, Antoni Asunción, assures that he is located and that he knows where he is. The next day, Asunción admits that Roldán has escaped. The minister announces his resignation.

Then begins the adventure of the extraordinary escape. In the first weeks, the former director of the Civil Guard granted an interview to El Mundo, and also sent a letter to the newspaper and to Felipe González, where he acknowledged that he received 10 million pesetas a month (60,000 euros) from the reserved funds. He turns on the fan and gives the names of those who, according to him, also received black funds from the Ministry of the Interior. All this with the knowledge of the President of the Government, he assures him.

He had made a premonition to the journalists of El Mundo: "If I go to jail, I won't go alone (...) I have two alternatives: either shoot myself or throw off the blanket and tell the whole truth." However, , despite his accusations, the Roldán case did not go beyond the responsibilities of Luis Roldán.The rest of the members of the Ministry of the Interior convicted by the GAL or the reserved funds fell into different investigations than the case of the director of the Civil Guard, that he never delved into his accusations.

His search was activated by 24 countries, but Roldán was not too far away. He remains hidden in Paris by a character who will be key in the plot, Francisco Paesa, an Information services collaborator who facilitates his escape and who will end up handing him over for an unofficially confirmed figure of 300 million pesetas (1.8 million euros). The reserved funds were used in this case to put an end to the flight and try to recover the money stolen precisely from those reserved funds.

During the flight, the magazine Interviú published photos of an orgy of Luis Roldán surrounded by drugs and prostitutes. It depends on who you ask, and already in an environment of unbearable corruption even for the time, there are discrepancies about what caused the greatest embarrassment in the Spanish: whether to think that this was surely paid for with public money or the appearance of the former director of the Civil Guard, photographed in underpants and a tank top, sometimes together with floats in the shape of animals.

Every day he spent with Roldán on the run was a burden for the PSOE government. Until on February 27, 1995, the Minister of the Interior and Justice, Juan Alberto Belloch, announced that Roldán had been arrested in Laos. The next day he appears surrounded by the policemen who have brought Roldán back to Spain in a room in the mansion at Castellana, 5, which is unofficially baptized as 'Salón Laos' and which is still used today for press conferences.

The next day, El Mundo publishes 'The Laos papers': the document that shows that Roldán believed he had reached an agreement to be tried in Spain for minor crimes. The figure of the enigmatic Paesa, who has acted as a double or triple agent many times, emerges as the key to the consummation of the deception. Not even the alleged Captain Khan who was guarding Roldán was a policeman, just a fraud hired by Paesa in Paris. Luis Roldán always accused Paesa of keeping the 1,000 million (six million euros) that the State never recovered. The spy even faked his death, paying a obituary for his own death in 1998. El Mundo located and photographed him in the French capital in 2004.

Roldán was sentenced to 31 years in prison for embezzlement, crime against the Public Treasury, false commercial document and fraud. He spent fifteen years in prison, ten in the Brieva prison in Ávila, where he was not serving a sentence with any other inmate. In Penitentiary Institutions they remember the "shocking" letter that the prisoner sent narrating the techniques that he used to avoid going crazy.

Since his release from prison he led a modest life in Zaragoza, in the company of his third wife. Not a trace of the luxury promised by the money that never appeared. The trace of him remains in a separate place of the General Directorate of the Civil Guard, in the box that is dedicated to all the directors of the Corps. In it he appears posing with his hands behind his back, "as if handcuffed", said the joke, which almost nobody does anymore, rumor of that Spain of extraordinary things.

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