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One of the largest corruption trials in Spanish history opened last week focusing on allegations that a number of high-profile public figures took bribes in return for approving developer planning applications.
Ninety-five defendants are on trial, including two former mayors, 15 town councilors and a German aristocrat.
At the center of the case is the former Marbella town planner and businessman Juan Antonio Roca, a man the Spanish media has dubbed "Mr Big."
Roca faces fines of €800 million ($1.12 billion in U.S. currency) and 35 years in prison for allegedly being the mastermind behind a cash-for-votes system operated at town hall meetings.
Roca allegedly ran a complex network of corrupt city officials who presided over potentially lucrative planning approval decisions. According to the Guardian newspaper, Roca was the man who decided who in the council received envelopes of cash, at one point declaring, "I am the city council."
When he was arrested in 2006 on corruption charges, his assets included an art-filled palace in Madrid, a country estate with a helipad, and a stud farm guarded by a tiger.
According to local magistrate Miguel Ángel Torres:
"Roca is a man with total control over the town hall, the councilors are subordinate to him. He is the person who all developers go to in order to see their wishes satisfied … Over 15 years he has gone from being on the dole to amassing tens of millions of euros."
If the allegations are proved to be true, Roca and his associates will be seen as at least partly responsible for "destruction" of large parts of the Costa del Sol coastline, which has been dubbed the "Costa del concrete" in some parts of the press.
Roca denies the allegations. Due to the complexity of the case, a verdict is unlikely to be reached for at least 12 months.
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