Secret funds and Spanish spies in Gibraltar today

Spanish secret agents making use of secret funds, known in Spain as 'fondos reservados', operate in Gibraltar, with such operations allotted a slice of the total of 25 million euros slush funds spent by the Spanish secret service last year and which has been approved for spending this year as well.

The total expenditure spent in different areas of operation fluctuates each year, depending on developments, but Gibraltar receives special attention to the extent that - despite being a pivot in Western defence and being within the overall framework of Nato by virtue of Britain's membership - it gets mentioned in the same breath as Morocco and Afghanistan.

Towards the end of December, a secret meeting took place in Madrid where confidential details were given of the activities of Spain's intelligence service CNI, 'Centro Nacional de Inteligencia', previously known as the CESID. Only six parliamentarians attended this meting, where three ministers provided information about the expenditure of the secret funds. They were defence minister Carme Chacon; interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba and foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. These are the three principal ministries spending the slush funds and receiving the reports collected and prepared by the CNI. TOP THREE

The three ministers head departments with specific interests in Gibraltar affairs, principally Chacon because of Gibraltar's military connection; Moratinos because of the Spanish claim to Gibraltar and Rubalcaba, whose Guardia Civil has recently been in the news.

Spanish interest in Gibraltar is two-pronged: largely centred on military and social/political affairs.

The fact that 80% of the secret funds go to the Defence ministry highlights to what extent secret agents and other devices are centred on military matters, including what goes on in Gibraltar.

On the social field, it is on record that Spanish agents frequent places in Gibraltar where members of the public gather, such as bars, restaurants, clubs etc. Their role is to obtain first-hand information of public opinion on matters that interest Spain. This supplements published information.

The Spanish Government has an office in Algeciras were everything of interest that is broadcast and published in Gibraltar is monitored and stored.

The information collected by CNI sources, and those working for it, is sent on to the cen-

tral intelligence centre and analysed before being submitted to the Prime Minister and the three ministers mentioned. The CNI says: "The CNI discharges its missions through the collection of information not found in traditional channels, both inside and outside Spain, using its own means and procedures."

For example, at the time of the joint sovereignty negotiations in 2001 and 2002, Gibraltar was on a high profile. Secret funds were used "to create a favourable opinion in Gibraltar" to the Spanish sovereignty claim, as was admitted at ministerial level.

Quoting another Spanish source, PANORAMA reported at the time that secret funds had been used to pay" Spanish journalistic circles to create a favourable awareness to Madrid's claim to the Rock.

The report added: "It has not become known , so far, if some of the funds are used by Spanish agents who visit Gibraltar itself, or meet with Gibraltarians and others in the Spanish hinterland, including Sotogrande, possibly even unknown to them, to try and extract information which is relayed back to Madrid to further the Spanish claim against Gibraltar." FISHY

What emerged a few weeks ago in the meeting in Madrid is that as much as 80% of the secret funds for 2010 will go to the ministry of defence, the department which controls the CNI and which is now headed by a General following the premature departure last year of its civilian head whose favourite pastime was to go deep-sea fishing in a Gibraltar-registered catamaran.