Gov’t alleges fraud in 1941 ‘purchase’ of Franco estate

Franco family estate at Pazo de Meirás in Galicia believed to have been fraudulently acquired. Photo: EFE / Público
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► Sánchez gov’t says Franco concocted 1941 purchase to mask coerced sale
► Lawsuit questions Franco family ownership of Pazo de Meirás estate in Galicia

The government of President Pedro Sánchez has ratcheted up its efforts to scale back the glorification of former dictator Francisco Franco, in keeping with the terms of Spain’s 2007 Historical Memory Law aimed at removing public glorification of Franco, heroes of the military uprising that brought him to power in 1939 and the promotion of the dictatorial regime he led for 36 years, from 1939 until his death in 1975.

Lawyers for the government have filed a lawsuit with a Galicia regional court alleging that the 1941 purchase documents of what is now the family estate of the former dictator in Pazo de Meirás (A Coruña) were fraudulent and concocted in order to paper over the forced transfer of the property as a gift to Franco three years earlier, at the height of the Spanish Civil War.

Currently owned and administered by members of the Franco family and the Francisco Franco Foundation, the Pazo de Meirás estate is open for guided tours and, like his tomb within the Basilica at the Valley of the Fallen monument outside Madrid, each year receives a steady stream of admirers of the former dictator.

The Franco foundation, established to honour the memory of the dictator and propagate the ideology with which Franco ruled Spain, is also at the forefront of efforts to stop the Sánchez government from disinterring the dictator’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen and re-inter them at a less high-profile location. That case is currently under consideration by Spain’s Supreme Court, with a decision expected sometime after the high court’s summer recess.

In 2017, the Culture Committee of Spain’s Congress of deputies put forward an unprecedented proposal urging the Xunta regional government of Galicia to assume management of the Pazo de Meirás estate. All parties, included centre-right Ciudadanos party voted in favor of the motion, with the abstention of the conservative Partido Popular allowing it to pass by a single vote.

Lawyers for the Sánchez government allege in the suit filed this week that the 1941 documents showing the purchase of the estate from the heirs of the original owner were fraudulent, given that the previous owners had already been forced three years earlier to hand over the property title to a special organization set up to collect funds for the purchase of the estate in order to gift it to Franco. When the organization could not raise the money through a public collection, local government officials and municipal government treasuries in Galicia were forced to underwrite the 1938 “purchase” price.

Sanchez government lawyers allege in the new lawsuit that in 1941 — after he and his family already had been living in the property for more than three years — in an effort to paper over the coerced 1938 sale of the property, Franco signed a fraudulent second agreement with the heirs of the original owner, who by that time no longer held title to the property.

► Read More in Spanish at El País and Público …

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