June 24, 2021

Iberdrola executives named in criminal espionage investigation

Public Service Company of New Mexico and Avangrid have informed the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission of a criminal investigation in Spain that names several executives of Avangrid’s parent company, Iberdrola.

This comes as the PRC is weighing a merger case that would allow Avangrid to acquire PNM.

A document filed in the merger docket on Thursday states that officials in Spain are looking into potential criminal activities connected to Iberdrola. The filing states that Spanish law does not allow government employees to provide services to private companies. However, a government employee may have provided services to 21 companies including Iberdrola. These services may have included espionage.

The case centers around an investigation of José Manuel Villarejo, a former police commissioner who led Grupo Cenyt, a security firm which Iberdrola contracted with from 2004 until 2017.

Iberdrola chairman and CEO Ignacio Sánchez Galán as well as other company officials are under criminal investigation as part of a probe into corporate espionage involving Villarejo and his contracts with several major Spanish companies.

“News reports yesterday indicated that there is an investigation about this matter that now includes a number of new individuals, including Iberdrola’s Chairman, who is also the Chairman of Avangrid, Francisco Martínez Córcoles, Business CEO, and two individuals who are no longer at Iberdrola (Fernando Becker and Rafael Orbegozo),” the PNM and Avangrid joint filing states. “In Spain, the first stage in any proceeding is a formal investigation where a wide net is cast to determine if there are facts that would support a criminal charge. The investigation stage is just that, an investigation to obtain facts.”

According to Spanish media, Iberdrola may have paid Villarejo to spy on people. The Spanish newspaper El Pais further reported that Iberdrola may have paid him for a project known as Arrow, which was intended to eliminate municipal and environmentalist opposition to a power plant being built in Cádiz, a province in southern Spain. El País reported that Arrow was one of at least five suspected contracts between Iberdrola and Cenyt.

“This is not an indictment or the submittal of formal charges. Instead, the Judge has accepted the request of the prosecutor to include him in the investigation,” Avangrid said in a statement a local spokesperson provided to NM Political Report. “This is simply the next step in the investigation and will include providing testimony. Last month Iberdrola’s Board informed the court that any director, member of the management team or employee of Iberdrola would be available to answer any questions about this case. We deny any wrongdoing and now have the opportunity to address the rumors and leaks that have targeted the company for several years.”