José Manuel Villarejo: Ex-Police Commissioner is Now Facing 109 Years in Prison

With Netflix’s Adolfo Moreno and Tomás Ocaña Urwitz-directed ‘Little Nicholas: Life of a Scoundrel’ delving deep into the tale of Francisco Nicolás, we get a documentary series unlike any other. That’s because it comprises not just archival footage but also exclusive interviews to really shine a light upon how he infiltrated the highest levels of Spain’s political-economic power as a mere teen. Amongst those to thus feature in this original was actually José Manuel Villarejo Pérez, only for him to end up intriguing us about his own journey from a former commissioner to a national criminal.

Who is Jose Manuel Villarejo?

Born on August 3, 1951, in the Andalusian town of El Carpio, Spain, to a midwife and a pharmacist, José has honestly never known anything apart from being a serviceman, state official, or spy. After all, he kickstarted his career at the tender age of 18 when conscription was mandatory under Francisco Franco’s military rule, where he remained loyal right until he realized this just wasn’t for him. “Since I was always rebellious, I could have been an anarchist,” he candidly told The New York Times in June 2023. “But another side of me believe d in order, discipline, and the fatherland.”

José hence genuinely wanted to aid his country yet couldn’t entirely submit to army rules, which is why he then joined the Spanish National Police Corps’ Social Investigation Brigade in 1972. This organization was reportedly under the dictator’s rule too, tasked with rooting out disloyalty — primarily in the form of public leftist activists as well as student leaders — from the very core. Yet the former personally was assigned to the Anti-terrorist Group at the San Sebastián provincial police station until 1975 — the year this military general passed away following a lengthy ailment.

José was then transferred to the Citizen Security team in Madrid, only to serve there for a total of eight years while learning the art behind blackmail, evidentiary recordings, phone tapping, etc. We specify eight years because records suggest he parted ways from this police service in 1983 to spread his wings in the business industry, managing 45+ different companies with a share capital of more than 16 million euros in a decade. He was actually reinstated as an operating agent (or undercover agent) in the Secretary of State for the Interior in 1993, which is where he built several more connections.

According to reports, José carried out several investigative works for companies, with these jobs including research commissioned by public bodies, private entities, and individuals. However, the extent of his work didn’t come to light until 2014, when he was first named in several criminal cases against Félix Sánz Roldán for disclosure of secrets, membership in a criminal organization, and money laundering. In other words, as a secret agent, he apparently let things go and found himself getting involved in crimes such as bribery, forgery, extortion, and influence peddling for personal gain.

As if that’s not enough, the same year, José was also charged with additional counts of disclosure of secrets and membership in a criminal organization in the process of searching Little Nicolás. According to court documents, he’d allegedly illegally recorded, manipulated, and disseminated a conversation between police officers and members of the Spanish intelligence organization, the National Intelligence Center. Then came 2017, when he apparently leaked information to the press about the Spanish King Juan Carlos and the National Intelligence Center (CNI) before threatening to leak more information if he was not removed from the process.

Then, in early 2019, José purportedly sent a letter to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez accusing retired army general Sanz Roldan of threatening certain judges of the National Court with data of their privacy so that they would stop investigating issues that affected the CNI. He also seemingly accused him of working against the interests of Spain by supporting Venezuelan interests or allowing the leaks about the Spanish royal family. Several of his audio recordings have also come to light during this period, especially as it is no secret he recorded every conversation he was ever a part of during his investigative years. However, it’s unclear whether he himself leaked them or if they were leaked by his enemies.

Where is José Manuel Villarejo Now?

It was in 2017 that José was arrested for the alleged crimes he committed during his decades both as a police officer and beyond; he’s essentially been accused of spying on and working to discredit some of Spain’s most high-profile politicians and business people. He was actually given bail, following which he has again preferred to limit his exposure so as to ensure his enemies — those he has wronged over the years — can’t go beyond legal justice.

The truth is there are currently over 30 cases against Jose, with Real Madrid also having taken legal action over referee bribery claims, and if he’s convicted of all the counts against him, he faces 109 years behind bars. Though today, according to reports, this 72-year-old has only been convicted of crimes related to 1 case, for which he was sentenced to 23 years behind bars. However, he’s out on parole at the moment, awaiting his other trials.

Read More: Maria del Carmen Iglesias: Little Nicolás’ Mother Still Supports Him Today