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A 69-year-old Spanish civil servant who skipped work for six years and went unnoticed has been fined 27,000 euros after his long absence came to light just when he was about to be awarded for his long service.

Joaquin Garcia dodged work by taking advantage of a mix up between his bosses at a water company and was due to collect his long-service medal when he was finally caught and inquiries found the true extent of his contribution to the local authority.

"We thought the water company was supervising him but that was not the case. We found out when we were about to present him with a commemorative plaque for 20 years of service," said Jorge Blas Fernandez, who had hired Garcia and was Cadiz city’s deputy mayor from 1995 to 2015.

A court has fined Garcia 27,000 euros (21,000 pounds), the equivalent after tax of one year of his annual salary after finding the engineer had not occupied his office for "at least six years" and had done "absolutely no work" between 2007 and 2010, the year before he retired.

"He was still on the payroll. I thought, where is this man? Is he still there? Has he retired? Has he died?," Fernandez was quoted as saying by ‘The Guardian’.

"I asked him: what are you doing? What did you do yesterday? And the previous month? He could not answer," said Fernandez who was told by a former manager of the water board, who had office opposite Garcia’s, that he had not seen his employee for several years.

Garcia, however, told the court that he had turned up to the office but there was actually no work to carry out and faced bulling for his family’s political leanings.

When asked why he did not report the situation, Garcia said he had a family to support and feared it would be difficult to find another job.

Garcia, who was not fired from the post because he had already retired, read extensively during that time and became an expert of philosophy on the works of Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher credited with laying the foundations of the Enlightenment.

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