Friday, January 23, 2015

Luis Bárcenas has left jail

The ex-treasurer of the Partido Poular was released from the Soto del Real prison yesterday following the payment of 200,000 euros bail by his family. Apart from the bail, he will have to meet the other conditions for his release namely that he has surrendered his passport and will have to report to the court three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

So why was he there? First  we need to look at the Gürtel case.

The Gürtel case is a massive bribes-for-contracts scandal unearthing political corruption in Spain. Several high ranking members of the PP have been implicated, some of whom have resigned and others who have been suspended.

The main suspect is Francisco Correa, a businessman who cultivated links with officers of the PP. Investigations into his activities in the Madrid area began in 2007.

The accusations against him include bribery, money laundering and tax evasion, and implicate a circle of businessmen led by Correa and politicians from the People's Party. The alleged illicit activities relate to party funding and the awarding of contracts by local/regional governments in six of the country’s regional governments.

The judge who began the probe was Baltasar Garzón . He was latter barred from the bench for ordering wiretaps on the conversations between suspects held in custody and their lawyers and was replaced by Pablo Ruz.

From the original 200 suspects, it was narrowed down to 45 including three former PP treasurers: Luis Bárcenas, Álvaro Lapuerta and Ángel Sanchís; four ex-mayors: Guillermo Ortega, Alberto López Viejo, Jesús Sepúlveda and Ricardo Galeote; and  the three allleged ringleaders: Francisco Correa, Pablo Crespo and Álvaro Pérez..

Whilst the loss to public finances is estimated to be at least 120,000,000 euros, some of the bribes taken were relatively small e.g. Francisco Camps  “suits”. *

Bárcenas involvement

In January 2013, major revelations came to light about the activities of the former treasurer of the Partido Popular, Luis Bárcenas. Information from Switzerland showed that he was responsible for a slush fund run for the benefit of the PP. HIs account in Switzerland held 48m euros.

It was alleged that money, in the form of bribes from constructors (hence the Gürtel  connection), were being distributed to party officials as backhanders and that Bárcenas was responsible for making the payments.  El Pais even  published pictures of Bárcenas’ handwritten accounts of the party’s B fund which showed e.g. a total of 250,000 euros paid to the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

As the newspaper El Pais has said, it is hard to draw a clear line between the cases Gürtel and Barcenas .

* Francisco Camps was president of the Generalitat Valenciana between 2003 and 2011. He was responsible for bringing the European Grand Prix and the America’s Cup to Valencia. In March 2009 Camps was accused by judge Baltasar Garzón of accepting a bribe of 12,000 euros towards his tailor’s bill. The case went to court several times but on each occasion it was dismissed. Camps maintains his innocence but admits that he may have received presents whilst he was president.

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