The talks of Cospedal and Villarejo, the prologue of the Kitchen operation for which the general secretary was not prosecuted

"The little notebook... it would be better to be able to stop it." As she revealed The country newspaper This Monday, those were the words that María Dolores de Cospedal addressed to José Manuel Villarejo by phone on January 20, 2013 without knowing that she was being recorded. At that time she was president of Castilla-La Mancha and general secretary of the Popular Party, which governed Spain with the absolute majority of Mariano Rajoy. To date, the National Court has concluded that various officials of the Ministry of the Interior conspired to remove compromising recordings that Luis Bárcenas had about PP leaders from circulation. This new document broadens the focus to the roles of the treasurer in a case in which Cospedal has managed to avoid the bench for the time being.

Judge Manuel García-Castellón settled the investigation of the kitchen operation, a police network that tried to erase evidence of corruption against the party, in July of last year. a car in which took for granted that Sergio Ríos, driver of the wife of Luis Bárcenas, was captured by a group of high-ranking officials from the Ministry of the Interior, who, by order of Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz, had decided to get rid of recordings that the former treasurer kept as anti-personnel mines against high-ranking officials of the PP, including Mariano Rajoy.

That order was later confirmed by the criminal court and left out of court to the only representative of the organizational structure of Genoa 13: the general secretary María Dolores de Cospedal. Until then, the judge had not ruled out the involvement of Cospedal and her husband, Ignacio López del Hierro: when she called the former Minister of Defense to testify, she did so because "her intervention, through Andrés Gómez Gordo [un agente de la máxima confianza de la número dos del PP que lo llevó al Gobierno de Castilla la Mancha cuando era presidenta], apparently it could have been decisive” so that the driver Sergio Ríos agreed to spy on the Bárcenas couple for the sewer and the PP. These indications, for the judge, disappeared when Cospedal appeared in the summer of 2021 at the National Court to deny one part and not remember others.

She was exonerated shortly after, when García-Castellón sent the police faction of the operation to trial and left out the more political side linked to the PP. She then spoke of the "weakness" of the arguments of the accusations to incriminate Cospedal and her husband. According to the magistrate, the intervened material does not show that she was behind the operation. The criminal chamber of the National Court confirmed it recently and that, except for a twist in the script, leaves the former secretary general of the Popular Party out of danger for the trial, despite her compromising talks with Villarejo.

The trial of the Kitchen operation, therefore, will have a political background but there will only be accused policemen and police officers, including in this second group Jorge Fernández Díaz, Minister of the Interior and personal friend of Mariano Rajoy and a public official of the PP since the decade of the eighties, and Francisco Martínez, Secretary of State for Security and deputy of the PP for Madrid until two years ago. Crimes of discovery of secrets, prevarication, bribery, influence peddling and embezzlement, among others, are attributed to them.

The recordings that El País reveals this Monday are part of the same moment of panic in the Popular Party due to what Luis Bárcenas, former treasurer, had stored in the drawers as ammunition to defend himself against what the Gürtel plot might bring him, then still in his early years of research. The Kitchen operation was launched in 2013 and the documentation of the case reflects dozens of follow-ups on Luis Bárcenas and his family between July and October of that year.

The conversations revealed this Monday take place a few months earlier, in January. When The world newspaperor it reflected on its cover that "Bárcenas paid bonuses in black for years apart from the PP leadership." Just 11 days before El País revealed the parallel accounting of the former treasurer, which has ended up being the cornerstone of the accusations in several pieces of the Gürtel case. And they spoke again on April 26 of that year when the Police were already preparing reports on the documents at the request of Judge Pablo Ruz: "He calls me [el ministro] last night telling me that I will have a day to see it [el informe] until I give it to the judge, and I say, and why do you call me, "said Cospedal.

These conversations, therefore, do not talk about the police device launched from the Interior to steal recordings from Luis Bárcenas, but they take place just a few months before the monitoring began after the recruitment of Sergio Ríos to infiltrate the family nucleus of the treasurer . In these conversations Villarejo speculates on several possibilities to cushion the impact of the information on the Popular Party's box B, such as promoting the police officers responsible for the reports that underpinned the probative power of the Bárcenas papers.

the unreleased audio

These recordings open new paths in the investigation of relations between Commissioner Villarejo and the Popular Party, but they have not passed through the hands of the judge. According to El País, the recording of these conversations is not contained in any folder of the extensive summary of the 'Tandem case', made up of more than twenty separate pieces. Hundreds of recordings were seized in the detention of the retired commissioner but much of that information remains, for now, encrypted and not accessible to investigators.

Neither the judge nor the criminal court, therefore, had this recording on the table when deciding to close the Kitchen investigation. Neither did the Prosecutor's Office and the popular accusations, which were already convinced that Cospedal and her husband promoted the theft of recordings from Bárcenas. It remains to be seen now if any of the parties makes a move after the revelation but, in the absence of the original file, everything will have to be done through the document published by El País.

For now, neither the judge nor the criminal court have shown much for the work of taking seriously the recordings made public by the press that they have not been able to find in the Villarejo archive. "These are audios of unknown origin and therefore of dubious reliability," said the investigating judge about the conversations that affected Cospedal and that were published by the digital Moncloa.com. That talk, García-Castellón argued then, is only a fragment of a total "whose duration and context are unknown."

The criminal court also undermined the credibility and evidentiary weight of the audios that arrived at the court by the dropper, both because of their form and their content. "It raises doubts that the statements contained in the intervened audios are true when some passages of what he says are denied by himself in other recordings or by a third party," he says about Villarejo. Those audios, for the criminal court, did not prove Cospedal's intervention in the Kitchen operation. So he responded negatively to the Anticorruption appeal to investigate number two of the PP in this case.

It remains to be seen, therefore, the future that these recordings made public this Monday have within the National Court. Everything will depend on whether the popular accusations or the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office itself, which always considered that the Kitchen case it was falsely closedthey decide to bring them to the attention of the investigating court number 6 of the National Court and if the judge understands that it has to do with the case, if they do not provide evidence about anything or if it is worth opening a new instruction.

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