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CORRUPTION

Gürtel graft case prosecutors seek 800 years in jail for 41 suspects

Anticorruption attorneys want 123-year sentence for mastermind Francisco Correa

Francisco Correa faces a prison term of 123 years for masterminding Gürtel. Ampliar foto
Francisco Correa faces a prison term of 123 years for masterminding Gürtel.

The Anticorruption Attorney’s Office wants a 123-year prison term for Francisco Correa, the mastermind behind the massive Gürtel bribes-for-contracts scandal that has tainted the ruling Popular Party (PP) at the national, regional and local levels.

The state’s attorneys are also asking for a 42-year sentence for former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who was involved in the Gürtel network and hoarded €48 million in secret Swiss bank accounts.

Bárcenas also allegedly kept parallel accounts for the conservative party that suggest illegal financing and side payments to top PP officials.

Almost matchless in scope, the Gürtel investigation has taken five years to complete. It involves six regional governments, originally targeted nearly 200 suspects, and reads like a Who’s Who of conservative officials.

The 41 defendants in this first part of the case face a combined total of almost 800 years in prison.

In a 512-page accusation brief, prosecutors Concepción Sabadell and Concepción Nicolás also find that former health minister Ana Mato – who was forced to resign in late November over the scandal – benefited from the network’s crimes even though she was not aware of them.

Correa’s aides ensured cooperation by bribing relevant officials with money or expensive gifts

Mato, who has retained her congressional seat, allegedly profited from €28,468 illegally obtained by her now former husband Jesús Sepúlveda, who was then mayor of the Madrid satellite town of Pozuelo de Alarcón.

Bárcenas faces charges of crimes against the treasury, money laundering, bribing public officials, document forgery and attempted procedural fraud.

Businessman Correa, who made friends in PP circles to secure contracts for his companies in PP-run governments, is accused of unlawful association, diverting public funds, influence peddling, tax offenses, fraud and several other crimes.

Another well-known PP politician to crop up in the brief is former Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre, who has been asked to testify as a witness.

On November 26, High Court judge Pablo Ruz ended the first part of the probe into the Gürtel case, which focuses on the ring’s activities in the Madrid and Castilla y León regions, as well as the Málaga town of Estepona.

Correa created his corrupt business ring in the 1990s, and soon began specializing in organizing political events and campaign runs for the PP. He used his contacts to secure public contracts for his companies through rigged bids, while his aides ensured cooperation by bribing relevant officials with money or expensive gifts.

The judge believes that at least 348 events in the Madrid region were directly or indirectly awarded to Correa-controlled companies.