A group of Majorcan pensioners were enjoying a regular weekly bingo game in the company of their local parish priest when all hell broke lose. Heavily armed police officers stormed the Son Cotoner club for senior citizens in Palma and ordered the players not to move as they sealed off all exits and inspected documentation.
In some bewilderment the elderly priest, Father Manolo, explained that the club was a non profit making organisation and that he had been organising bingo sessions on the premises for 30 years with pensioners playing for 10 or 20 cents per card. Clearly rattled at the paucity of their haul, the police confiscated a toy bingo machine from the terrified group and a pot containing €5 of prize money. Similar raids took place in Soller in the North West of the island where I happen to live, and at another day centre in central Palma.
Island residents and members of FEDAS, the Federation of Pensioners Clubs in the Baleares, were justifiably outraged by the actions of the police, and a scalp hunt was orchestrated by local media which stopped at the door of the regional minister for Justice, Pilar Costa. She in turn pointed the finger at one of her underlings, Anna Zacher, the head of gaming for the government who tried to wriggle out of the sorry affair by blaming her boss for over reacting to news from informers.
It transpired that some unnamed individuals had informed Anna Zacher that shady gambling was being undertaken at the three clubs. She had immediately informed the regional minister for Justice who in turn had ordered full police raids. Embarrassingly for all concerned no one bothered to verify the facts, find out more about the establishments in question or even about the age of the members. Had they done their homework, it would have been blindingly obvious that nothing untoward was going on.
In a damage limitation photocall that would have done David Mellor proud, minister Pilar Costa smiled to the cameras and unctuously promised pensioners across Majorca that they would be permitted to resume their gambling without the threat of police intervention. If only such assiduousness in attempting to winkle out wrong doers had been shown by the government in the recent wave of politic scandals hitting the island.
As for Majorca’s beleaguered pensioners, we can but hope that left to their own devices they might one day just hit the jackpot.
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