A 69-year-old Spanish civil servant has been fined €27,000 (R20.7 lakh) after not going to work for “at least” six years. Joaquin Garcia’s absence was only noticed when he became eligible to collect a long-service award.

Garcia was paid €37,000 a year before tax by a water company run by local authorities in the south-western city of Cadiz. His fine was equivalent to one year’s salary after tax and was the most that the company could legally reclaim. The court heard that the boss of the water company had not seen him for years despite occupying an office opposite his.

The water company thought he was supervised by the local authorities and vice versa. The deputy mayor noticed his absence when Garcia became due to receive a plaque for 20 years of service.

People close to him told a Spanish newspaper that he was reluctant to report it as he had a family to provide for, and worried that at his age he would not get another job. They said he did go to the office, although not for full business hours every day, and that he dedicated himself to reading philosophy.