The State has won the first battle of the judicial war over the ownership of the Pazo de Meirás, the historic summer residence of the former dictator General Franco.

On Wednesday a Court in La Coruña has stated that it fully supports the claim filed by the State Attorney, and orders the Franco family to return the property to the state, without receiving a single euro in compensation for the maintenance costs that they have been paying since 1975.

The case was first taken up in Galicia when it emerged that Franco’s family had put the property up for sale for a reported price of €8million.

Matters then intensified, when the Spanish government filed a legal claim for the ownership of the palace, arguing that an official sale formally transferring the property into Gen Franco and his wife’s names in 1941 had been fraudulent.

On Wednesday, Judge Marta Canales agreed with a report drawn up in 2018 by historical and legal experts and commissioned by the local authority that said the 1941 sale of the palace to Franco was not a genuine contract, and therefore fraudulent.

The Pazo, therefore, is state-owned, according to the judge, the Xunta de Galicia, the Provincial Council of La Coruña and the city councils of Sada (where the Pazo is located) and La Coruña.

However the legal case still has a way to run as Franco’s descendants say they will appeal against the ruling, part of their democratic right to impartial justice.

“It is nothing more than a political decision”, according to the executor of the Franco estate, Luis Felipe Utrera-Molina, “I expected a ruling based on law and not on a book of anti-Franco historians,” he said.

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