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article imagePriest at 'Ecce Homo' church up on €210,000 fraud charge

By Anne Sewell     Dec 3, 2013 in World
Borja - You may remember the controversial "restoration" performed on the "Ecce Homo" fresco at a church in Borja, Spain. Well, to add to the controversy, the priest at that church is now being charged with fraud and alleged sexual abuse.
For a small town of only 5,000 inhabitants, Borja in the Zaragoza region of northern Spain sure does get into the media a lot.
Digital Journal reported on the case of the botched renovation of the "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man) fresco, a painting of Jesus Christ in the church of the town. The latest news on that was that Cecilia Giménez, the Spanish artist responsible for the unfortunate "restoration" was auctioning one of her own paintings on eBay for charity, so she can probably be forgiven for her misdeeds.
However, in a case that, according to a lawyer for Borja's priest has "absolutely nothing" to do with the infamous restoration of the "Ecce Homo" fresco, 70-year-old Florencio Garcés is one of six men who were arrested on Friday by the Civil Guard as part of a fraud investigation.
According to 20 Minutos (in Spanish), in a case local police have dubbed "Operation Thorn Tree," Garcés was taken into custody on Friday in Borja and charged with offences including sexual abuse, embezzlement of 210,000 euros ($285,000) and money laundering.
While, as stated above, lawyers say that the arrest has nothing to do with the "Ecce Homo" incident, this did bring the village to international attention in 2012 after local artist Cecilia Giménez touched up the 19th century image of Jesus, turning the fresco into what became a viral Internet meme. She became known as the world's worst art restorer, but always claimed that "they didn't let me finish."
While the artwork was ruined, her work did inspire many tourists to visit the town and pay an entrance fee of 1 euro ($1.30) to enter the church and view the "artwork", which boosted the church's coffers by around 50,000 euros.
However, the lawyer said that the fraud charges do not relate to these earnings.
Locals apparently demonstrated in support of the priest on Saturday saying they were "in disbelief" after his arrest.
Gimenez told the media: "We haven't been told the details of the allegations, but as far as I know he is a lovely man who has cared for this community for more than 20 years."
Garcés has since been released from custody and is set to appear before a judge on Monday.
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