The unfolding story of Rafael Muñoz Leonisio is a stark reminder of the intricate web of power dynamics and alleged corruption within municipal structures. The accusations of bribery, embezzlement, and misuse of authority paint a troubling picture of a man who held a position of significant influence for almost four decades. It’s concerning to see how, over the years, such allegations may have gone unaddressed, highlighting the challenges faced by those attempting to expose wrongdoing.
The reported details, ranging from unauthorized activities to alleged personal gains, underscore the importance of robust checks and balances within public institutions. The fact that Muñoz Leonisio faced various accusations throughout his career raises questions about the efficacy of internal oversight mechanisms and the extent to which these issues were known or ignored.
The narrative also sheds light on the complex nature of workplace cultures, where individuals may feel powerless or reluctant to speak out against powerful figures. The reported instances of fear and reluctance to report alleged misconduct highlight the need for fostering a culture of transparency, accountability, and protection for whistleblowers within organizations.
As investigations proceed, it will be crucial to ascertain the full extent of the alleged wrongdoings and determine the accountability of those involved. This case serves as a call to action for reinforcing ethical standards, enhancing internal controls, and ensuring that public servants are held to the highest standards of integrity.
Rafael Muñoz Leonisio never gave up smoking cigars in his office. The Anti-Tobacco Law didn’t apply to him. It could be said that few regulatory frameworks of the current democracy did: he drove his car without insurance, cleared part of a pine forest without permission to set up paddle tennis courts, used the municipal tow truck to return impounded cars to acquaintances, and used his social media to compulsively insult government members and the left in general. Interestingly, Muñoz smoothly combined this above-the-law professional life for almost 40 years with his position as superintendent and chief of the Local Police in El Puerto de Santa María. It wasn’t until his retirement that he was finally arrested, accused of taking bribes for the management of municipal parking lots.
Extortion, bribery, embezzlement of public funds for personal use, and influence trafficking: the list of alleged corruption for which the Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit (UDEF) of the National Police in Cádiz arrested Muñoz Leonisio this past Tuesday is long. And that only refers to alleged illegalities committed in his last year before retiring last November at the age of 65. Along with him, José Manuel C. R., a technician from the municipal Infrastructure department, was implicated as an accessory to the crimes of bribery and prohibited negotiations for officials, according to the initial stages of the investigation led by the Court of Instruction number 2 of El Puerto at the request of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office in Cádiz.
UDEF investigators believe that the former police chief used his position to collect illegal commissions from entities that took charge of temporary parking lots created for festive events such as the Fair or the Puro Latino music festival last year. “It’s not much money because they weren’t long-term contracts; we’re talking about a few thousand euros,” notes a source close to the investigation. Muñoz Leonisio also allegedly used his authority to intervene in the removal of fines for family and friends and facilitated his son’s operation of a tourist train in the summer of 2023, which operated for a few weeks. This is in addition to the alleged use of the municipal tow truck “for private purposes,” as the same source explains. EL PAÍS has attempted, without success, to contact the main suspect to get his version of the events.
Few at the City Council were surprised by Muñoz Leonisio’s arrest, although there have been few who, in his more than three decades of service, dared to denounce his alleged misconduct. Even though the list of anecdotes is so long that it’s hard to cover. A civil servant recalls constant visits from businessmen to his office, where, at the entrance of the headquarters, “they started talking about money he owed them.” Socialist Ángel González, Councilor for Citizen Security between 2015 and 2019, recalls having to reprimand him for advertising a training academy for local police candidates with his corporate phone and driving a private car without insurance, which he later replaced with a municipal one. “The badge was like a shield for him. People were very afraid of him… There were those who said that when he retired, things would catch up with him,” the same worker points out.
When Muñoz Leonisio joined as superintendent of the Local Police of El Puerto in the early ’90s—after being a lieutenant in the Marine Infantry until 1984—he was sold as “a revolution,” explains the same source. Affable and pleasant in close quarters, the enchantment lasted only as long as it took for the first problems to arise. At a New Year’s Eve party in 2000 full of irregularities, he ended up being pointed out as the officer who allegedly turned a blind eye to the abuses in the venue, although the investigation came to nothing, as reported by Diario de Cádiz. Six years later, environmentalists accused him of destroying some pine trees without permission to set up paddle tennis courts with a businessman friend, as recalled by one of the activists involved. After that feat, he earned the nickname Rancapino (like the flamenco singer), which he added to his list of aliases alongside Pringue, for his love of hair gel.
Not even his troubles with the tow truck are new. In 2011, he allowed a councilor to take his vehicle from the municipal impound lot without paying the corresponding fee after parking improperly. He claimed he was the authority. During the pandemic, he did it again two more times, this time with cars belonging to another local police officer and a civil guard. “He told the tow truck driver to take out the car and take it to the owner’s door,” explains the employee. For these actions, the union of municipal agents UPLBA reported him in a case also being investigated by Court Number 2. It is precisely this union that caused the most headaches for Muñoz Leonisio—they also administratively reported his penchant for smoking cigars in the headquarters. In return, the chief filed complaints against 12 of its workers who supported the union’s protest of refusing to work due to the absence of trousers, a battle that the police ultimately won in court.
But it wasn’t until the years of the coronavirus and the mask when Muñoz Leonisio, dissatisfied with the management of the pandemic, jumped into the national spotlight in May 2020 for insulting the government—he called Minister María Jesús Montero a “son of a bitch” or Pablo Iglesias a “communist piece of shit”—on his social media. He demonstrated with a saucepan and a Spanish flag in hand and was one of the 200 retired military personnel who signed the controversial manifesto against the government. By then, he was the plenipotentiary chief of the Local Police, after the death in 2017 of the chief superintendent inadvertently cleared his path. The automatic promotion was so sudden that, after being absent from the headquarters for weeks in early 2018, rumors spread among his subordinates that he was on sick leave due to anxiety. He solved the mystery with an open email to the staff in April of that year in which he denied it all in a defiant tone: “I continue to smoke my cigars, drink my Ribera del Duero (two glasses a day), a couple of gin and tonics Rives Special when I go out on Sundays…”
Now that he is retired, free, and under investigation, many at the City Council wonder how he managed to avoid so many troubles after decades and six mayors of various political stripes. “He’s always been in trouble, but the problem is that, in our case, we never had evidence; it was all rumour’s,” González excuses. The current PP government prefers to remain silent, although it recalls that they were the ones who removed him as chief after managing to create a new position of superintendent mayor of the Local Police that was filled in February 2022. Although Javier Botella, of the local party Unión Portuense, reminds Mayor Germán Beardo of “proximity” and “connivance” that Muñoz Leonisio—declared PP sympathizer—always had with the current local government. With the political turmoil and ongoing judicial investigations that may end with more defendants, the municipal worker who dealt with him perhaps best sums up how Rafael Muñoz Leonisio managed to survive: “He moves very well in the mud.”
Corruption in Spain is a large concern, but it is not widespread among the police forces. According to Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2013, the Spanish population considers political parties, Parliament and the judiciary the most corrupt institutions 1. However, among Spain’s police forces, corruption is not widespread and there are only small isolated cases involving police corruption 1. The police services are considered reliable in protecting companies from crime (Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016), and the necessary mechanisms are in place to investigate and punish abuse and corruption in the police force 1