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Gürtel CORRUPTION case

Judge sends key figures in Gürtel corruption case to prison

Prosecutors argued kickbacks network mastermind Francisco Correa and two aides were flight risks

The Valencia High Court on Monday ordered that corrupt business network mastermind Francisco Correa and his aides Pablo Crespo and Álvaro Pérez be sent to prison, according to judicial sources. The three were last week sentenced to 13 years behind bars for unlawfully securing event organization contracts from the regional government of Valencia.

Gürtel mastermind Francisco Correa (center) at the trial.
Gürtel mastermind Francisco Correa (center) at the trial.

Their lawyers had requested alternative measures but these were denied, with prosecutors having earlier argued the men presented a flight risk.

All three face further trials in connection with Gürtel

All three now face further trials in connection with the Gürtel network, which operated across six Spanish regions between 1999 and 2005. The graft and patronage scheme was allegedly run by Correa (whose surname loosely translates as belt, or Gürtel in German), a businessman who cultivated relationships with officials with Spain's conservative Popular Party (PP), offering them gifts in exchange for government contracts in public works and event organization. At the height of his power, Correa went by the nickname of Don Vito, after the character in The Godfather.

With nearly 200 official suspects, it became the largest pre-trial probe in modern Spanish history and was broken up into sections to facilitate the investigation.

A subterfuge

The sentence handed down on Friday finds that the public competitions to award contracts to design, set up and take down the Valencia region pavilion at Fitur, Spain’s premier tourism fair, as well as at other lesser events, were rigged so as to favor Gürtel businesses for five years in a row, from 2005 to 2009.

The tenders thus became “a mere subterfuge to directly appropriate public funds.”

The sentence may be appealed.

English version by Susana Urra.

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