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Analysis: Spanish anti-corruption report implicates wind sector

SPAIN: Spain's inland revenue suspects regional administration officials of receiving at least €110 million in backhanders from wind developers, including affiliates of utilities Iberdrola and Endesa, in return for project licenses, according to leaked reports.

An affiliate of Iberdrola is among the companies implicated in the leaked report
An affiliate of Iberdrola is among the companies implicated in the leaked report

In a 94-page report sent to Spain's Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, the inland revenue placed 35 projects, developed in 2004-2007, under suspicion. The report was leaked to national daily newspaper El Pais.

The biggest single case involves a joint venture, Energía Global Castellana. It was led by an affiliate of Iberdrola, Ibercyl, which held 60%. The remaining 40% belonged to San Cayetano Wind, allegedly controlled by an official from Excal, a regional government holding company dedicated to regional exports promotion. The joint venture developed 18 projects to completion totalling 492MW.

The tax agency smelled a rat after San Cayetano Wind progressively sold its 40% share to Ibercyl throughout 2007-2009. This happened once each project received licenses but prior to construction investment. San Cayetano Wind allegedly received a combined €47.1 million; nearly 2,000 times its initial stake capital of €24,400.

Similarly, the report highlights the Prodener I project in Burgos, led by Endesa. Partner Inverduero, an affiliate of a local construction firm Collosa, took a €15,000 capital stake in 2005. Just over two years later, Inverduero sold that stake for nearly €2.5 million.

The inland revenue report detects many similar transactions between other public officials and developers in Castile and León, Spain's top wind power region, with over 5.5GW online.

Developers include independent firm Preneal, suspected of paying around €6 million to San Cayetano Wind and €7 million to Cronos Global, 50% owned by a former public official. The report detects no tangible mercantile returns on those payments.

The inland revenue has said it is refusing to comment on the cases while investigations are ongoing.

Endesa claims Inverduero had hit financial difficulties and actually sold its stake well below the market valuation price of €4.2 million.

Iberdrola, the only company to respond officially to Windpower Monthly, claimed it "has always developed its wind projects in Castile and Leon within the strictest legal bounds". Ibercyl's acquisition of stakes were "made on the basis of market valuations", it added.

For the second year running, Iberdrola was the only other Spanish firm listed in 2014 among the 132 most ethical companies by independent global watchdog Ethisphere Institute.

Iberdrola's actions, and those of most of the wind developers involved were "probably legal, technically, though questionable ethically", one veteran sector adviser in Castile and Leon confided. He reckoned the brunt of any charges by anti-corruption authorities would be against public officials "for illicit gain and abuse of public office".

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