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A lawyer from Iberian firm Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira is one of the latest high-profile figures to be questioned in relation to a data-trafficking scandal that first came to light in Spain last year.
An investigation carried out by Spanish police has revealed that Javier Llorente Busquets, a labour partner at Cuatrecasas’ Barcelona office, hired a private detective who is alleged to be involved in Operación Pitiusa, the largest ever data-trafficking network scandal in Spanish history.
The investigation began last year after it was discovered that a local policeman in Barcelona had allegedly sold private data related to vehicle licence plates and their drivers. To date it is believed that around 150 people are in some way implicated in the scandal.
After months of investigation, in May the Barcelona police arrested over 70 people who they believe have some connection to the scandal. One of those arrested was Sara Dioniso García, the owner and director of private investigation and intelligence group Strategia.
The police have also called in a number of people, who are believed to have hired a private investigator but are not believed to have been involved or aware of any alleged illegal practices, as witnesses. However, after hearing a recorded telephone conversation between Llorente and Dionisio, Llorente was brought in for questioning so the police could attempt to determine whether he had been aware of the use of illegal methods to obtain the private information.
Earlier this year Llorente spoke to the police to clarify his relationship with Dionisio. According to reports, Llorente asked Dionisio to find out private information about a vehicle that was relevant to a court case in which he was acting a matter of days later involving the driver of the vehicle.
In Llorente’s statement to the police, he denied all knowledge that the information he had requested had been obtained illegally or was of a confidential nature or that he had been in contact with anyone that could provide him with illicit information of this nature. Llorente confirmed that he had received an email in which he stated that “the fee for the services” would amount to between €400-500, but said that this had not yet been paid.
Another lawyer from a different firm, who is also believed to have contracted Dionisio, has been brought in for questioning.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the firm commented: “Javier Llorente is completely unconnected with the trafficking plot. As he has already stated and confirmed for the police in a timely fashion, he was completely unaware of any illegal activity perpetrated by the investigator, who merely acted as an external service provider, and did not at one moment consider that the service was being carried out illegally.”
The news follows a series of significant departures from Cuatrecasas’ labour and employment department. Last week Sonia Cortés defected to labour boutique Abdón Pedrajas & Molero (25 July 2012), the previous week a prominent labour partner Javier Hervás left the firm (25 June 2012) and just a few weeks earlier a team of one partner and four associates jumped ship to KPMG Abogados (25 June 2012).