The HSE has selected a Spanish construction company that has been linked to a major political scandal in its home market as a preferred bidder for the €125m contract to build the new National Forensics Hospital in North Dublin, the Irish Independent has learned.
Spanish construction giant OHL, which is active in 30 markets, will partner with Irish builder JJ Rhatigan to build the new hospital in Portrane.
The HSE said contracts for the deal have yet to be signed, but confirmed that the OHL/Rhatigan proposal has been identified as preferred bidder.
Last year in Spain, OHL was one of a number of construction companies named in an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Spanish politicians in the award of large government infrastructure projects.
Known as the Gurtel case, the investigation is seeking to identify the source of payments to a slush fund run by Luis Bárcenas, former treasurer of Spain's ruling centre-right People's Party (PP).
Mr Bárcenas has claimed that the money was used to pay senior figures in the party, including current prime minister Mariano Rajoy.
Francisco Correa, who allegedly acted as a go-between for the party and building companies, testified before a Spanish judge that OHL had paid for his services to help secure major public projects.
The company denied the allegations and is taking legal action against Mr Correa.
"OHL also announces that it will file suit against Mr Francisco Correa for slander, in view of the fact that OHL has neither paid illegal commissions nor has it had any relationship whatsoever with Mr Francisco Correa," the company said at the time.
Last February, a Spanish judge ordered searches of the offices and homes of the former head of the Madrid branch of the PP and of OHL director Javier Lopez, as part of an anti-corruption operation.
At the time, OHL confirmed the search of Mr Lopez's office but said it related to the executive, not to the company.
It is understood the National Forensics Hospital contract is the first of many public procurements OHL is seeking in Ireland.
Reports in the Spanish media suggest the company is targeting further contracts here, with tenders also prepared for the new National Rehabilitation Hospital and satellite centres for the new National Children's Hospital.
OHL was previously a frontrunner to win the contract for the scrapped Dublin Metro North line. Spanish website El Economista cited sources who said OHL is looking to win contracts in "safe markets" and that infrastructure projects in health, education, administration and residential contracts in Ireland were priorities.
JJ Rhatigan is currently building nine primary care centres in an €80m contract, garda stations in Dublin and Galway for a combined cost of €50m, and the new €50m Trinity Business School.