• Spain's news in English
Spain's PP under spotlight at start of huge corruption trial
The case comes at a tricky time for acting PM Mariano Rajoy. Photo: AFP

Spain's PP under spotlight at start of huge corruption trial

AFP · 4 Oct 2016, 09:11

Published: 04 Oct 2016 09:11 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Kickbacks, fake invoices and Swiss bank accounts: the juicy details of the so-called Gürtel affair -- which allegedly saw PP politicians across the country receive bribes - are well known by Spaniards who have become all too used to corruption in politics.

But this time, Spanish media have billed it as the "trial of the year" as three former party treasurers are among the 37 defendants - including Luis Barcenas, who stashed tens of millions away in Switzerland.

What makes the case all the more intriguing is that the PP itself has been called to the stand for allegedly benefitting from funds obtained illegally by lawmakers.   

But unlike the defendants, the party as a whole faces no criminal charges and may merely be asked to pay the money back.

'Godfather' figure

The case has been given the code-name "Gürtel ", the German translation of "belt", or "correa" in Spanish -- the surname of the man who allegedly led the sprawling corruption network.

Francisco Correa, a businessman who liked to be called "Don Vito" in reference to the mob boss played by Marlon Brando in "The Godfather", is accused of having showered PP lawmakers and councillors with bribes between 1999 and 2005.

In exchange, his companies or those of his friends were given contracts for public works or for organising events, such as the 2006 visit of Pope Benedict XVI in the eastern city of Valencia.

Last year, online daily eldiario.es published a confession from Correa, who for more than three years swapped his flashy lifestyle for prison where he was remanded in custody from 2009 to 2012.

He said companies would give him "a commission of 2 to 3 percent" on the value of public works contracts awarded to them, which he would then give to Barcenas, "in cash", after taking his share.

Correa, who was close to former conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, has threatened to spill the beans on "everything he knew."   

The case claimed a high-profile victim early on, forcing the resignation of then health minister Ana Mato in 2014.   

Her ex-husband Jesus Sepulveda is on the stand for embezzlement of public funds and influence peddling as former mayor of Pozuelo de Alarcon, a town near Madrid, from 2003 to 2009.

His family is alleged to have profited with various gifts, holidays or birthday parties complete with clowns.

Mato herself is accused of benefiting from her ex-husband's offences, though like the PP she does not face criminal charges.

Rato in court next door

The case also claimed another victim in the form of Spain's superstar judge Baltasar Garzon, who had ordered the first detentions in 2009 after a lengthy probe.

Story continues below…

In 2012, he was suspended from the judiciary for 11 years after being found guilty of ordering illegal recordings of corruption suspects talking to their lawyers in the Gürtel affair.

The trial that kicks off Tuesday at Spain's National Court just outside Madrid is due to last several months.

Coincidentally, former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato will also be testifying on Tuesday in a separate trial in the same building.  

Rato, a former economy minister and fallen star of the PP, is on the stand for allegedly overseeing a "corrupt system" that helped him and other executives misuse millions when he was a Spanish banking boss.

By Laurence Boutreux / AFP

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man rescued from bin after climbing in find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
jobs available