A Madrid court admits a lawsuit against Dimas Gimeno for alleged espionage

The investigating court number 35 of Madrid has admitted a lawsuit against the former president of El Corte Inglés Dimas Gimeno for extortion, revelation of secrets and criminal organization during his time at the head of the department store chain. The plaintiffs —the group’s former communication director Ángel Barutell, his wife Gloria Allende and the journalist Eulogio López— maintain that Gimeno cloned their mobile phones, spied on advisers from El Corte Inglés and that he hired the Israeli agency NSO Group, a manufacturer of the Pegasus program.

Two of the three plaintiffs confirmed this Tuesday to EL PAÍS that the case has been admitted for processing, according to Voz Pópuli. The accusations are also directed against Miguel Ángel Gimeno, brother of Dimas Gimeno, and his mother María Antonia Álvarez. Sources close to the former president of El Corte Inglés, who headed the group between 2014 and 2018, have denied that he has used or ordered the use of any service to carry out espionage work, and added that for the moment they have not received any notification from the court.

In an order dated June 6 to which Efe has had access, Judge Inmaculada Lova has agreed to open an investigation, without going into the substance of the accusations, to take statements from the complainants in the coming days. The accusation maintains that, in 2018, during Dimas Gimeno’s confrontation with several members of the company’s board of directors, which culminated in his dismissal, his brother used trickery to manipulate and tap Barutell’s mobile phones (who was head of communication of the department stores for 40 years), his wife and Eulogio López, director of the digital media Hispanidad. They claim that the top executive asked them for help in his internal battle for control of the company.

With the excuse of checking whether their telephones had been tapped, Miguel Ángel Gimeno —with the help of his mother, María Antonia Álvarez, sister of the deceased president of El Corte Inglés Isidoro Álvarez— would have convinced them, always according to the complainants, to let them introduce a series of passwords, after which he assured them that they were “clean”. In the following days, they found that “strange” events were taking place, such as the deletion of messages and the duplication of screens. The three plaintiffs assure that they carried out an analysis of their telephones, which had been cloned, and of their homes, where they verified the existence of microphones.

The plaintiffs assert that, in addition, “information was collected about members of the council, photos of extramarital affairs, conversations of the longest-serving directors committed to the will”, which were intended to be used to “extort as many members of the council” so that Gimeno was not dismissed. The investigative agencies that Dimas Gimeno would have used are, in addition to the NSO Group, Kroll and the Intelligence Bureau, according to the complaint.

The alleged espionage would have occurred in the midst of the battle for control of the company, during which a series of lawsuits were filed against the heiresses of Isidoro Álvarez, the sisters Marta and Cristina Álvarez. Said lawsuits, adds the complaint, had “the spurious purpose of legally harassing them so that María Antonia Álvarez and Dimas Gimeno could sell their shares of El Corte Inglés.”

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