Ex-police commissioner Jose Manuel Villarejo said attacks which included a truck ramming into pedestrians on La Rambla in Barcelona, killing 16 people and injuring 152, “were a serious mistake” by former National Intelligence Service (CNI) director Feliz Sanz Roldan.

Roldan “miscalculated the consequences”. In Cambrils, the day after the Barcelona attack, the jihadist cell launched a knife attack on the beachfront, killing one person. The alleged mastermind of the attacks, an imam in the city of Ripoll, had been a CNI informant.

All five jihadists were eventually shot and killed by police. The night before the Barcelona attack, an “accidental” explosion occurred in Alcanar, destroying the building and killing two members of the terrorist cell, including the 40-year-old imam.

Villarejo’s comments were made in court during a case involving police spying allegations. He said he could prove the allegations: “All the evidence is in my archives. I authorise their release. We must think that the citizenry is not a minor and the law of secrets cannot be used to hide everything. It is an obsolete Francoist law from 1968.”

Some opposition parties said Villarejo’s statements were a very serious accusation involving the CNI’s collaboration with “jihadist terrorist cells”.

Jihadist mastermind closely linked to CNI

The CNI helped the mastermind of the 2017 Barcelona terror attacks to become an imam in Ripoll, where the subsequent jihadist cell was based, three years before the incidents, according to a report by the Público digital newspaper. Spain’s secret services recruited Abdelbaki Es Satty as an informant in 2014, in exchange for not deporting him.

The imam had spent four years in jail from 2010 to 2014 for drug dealing, and it is during this period that he was hired as an informant by the CNI. They even “fixed recommendations and guarantors” so that he could be admitted as imam in Ripoll, in order to set up the cell.

The government of Catalonia is considering a legal response. Catalan President Peres Aragones commented on social media that the attack “was a barbarity that has marked us forever – and if Villarejo’s words are true, explanations are needed now”

Aragones added:

“We know very well how the state sewers work, so we demand that they be investigated in order to clarify the truth. I have also asked the legal services of the government to study these statements and the relevant legal actions that can be taken. For the truth. For the victims, for the Catalans and for all those who are on the side of peace and democracy.”

The Spanish government, however, dismissed the claims, saying that Villarejo “has no credibility”. An official said the former police commissioner had a “long history of trying to cast shadows of suspicion without ever providing evidence” and his “insinuations have no logical or material basis”.

A spokesperson for the Catalan Socialists also rejected Villarejo’s claims as a “conspiracy theory”. The requests for an investigation should not be taken seriously since the ex-commissioner “does not have to tell the truth during a trial” and only wants to “make noise”.

Villarejo made headlines in 2018 after he leaked conversations with former King Juan Carlos’ lover Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, which prompted a prosecutor in Switzerland to open an investigation against the former monarch for allegedly having received $100 million from Saudi Arabia in 2008.

Villarejo also revealed that he had created a prostitution network in order to obtain information about influential politicians and business figures. “The important thing is that they explained things to draw the attention of the women,” said Villarejo. The same website moncloa.com leaked excerpts in which a Spanish minister admitted that “several Spanish judges and prosecutors ended up with minors” during a trip to Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia.