Prosecutor accuses Spanish government’s party of benefitting from kickbacks

A Spanish prosecutor on Wednesday accused the ruling Popular Party (PP) of benefitting from funds obtained illegally by elected officials in the final days of a year-long corruption trial.

Prosecutor accuses Spanish government's party of benefitting from kickbacks
File photo of the Spanish government in Madrid. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

In July, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy testified in the trial, which centres on a vast bribery network that allegedly saw companies shower former PP lawmakers and party leaders with bribes in exchange for public contracts.

Rajoy denied any knowledge of the scheme, saying he never dealt with the financial affairs of the party he has led since 2004.

Prosecutor Concepcion Sabadell on Tuesday recalled that Rajoy's health minister Ana Mato resigned in 2014 after being accused of benefitting from gifts made to her then husband, Jesus Sepulveda, who was mayor of the city of
Pozuelo de Alarcon near Madrid from 2003 to 2009.

“It is known that Sepulveda received commissions in connection with his duties as senator and mayor to award public contracts, cash and in kind, which benefited Ana Mato and the Popular Party,” Sabadell told the court.

Altogether, 37 defendants are on trial accused of participating in a vast kickback scheme involving tens of millions of euros between 1999 and 2005, including two former party treasurers and businessman Francisco Correa, the alleged head of the network.

Companies would allegedly give Correa a commission of two to three percent on the value of public contracts.

His main accomplice was allegedly Luis Barcenas, a former PP treasurer who was close to Rajoy.  Barcenas is accused of setting up a slush fund to top up the salaries of PP leaders.

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The trial, which began near Madrid in October 2016, is expected to end on November 10.

A series of corruption scandals has hounded the PP and contributed to the party losing its absolute majority in 2015.

The trial is an added headache for Rajoy's government as Spain attempts to quash Catalonia's push for independence.

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