Spain prosecutors seek 42-year jail term for ruling party ex-treasurer

16th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

Spanish anti-corruption prosecutors called Friday for a former treasurer of the ruling Popular Party to be jailed for 42 years for his role in an alleged kickback scheme at the heart of the party.

High Court judge Pablo Ruz said in November he has concluded the "backbone" of his probe into the so-called "Gurtel" case and had enough evidence to try 43 people, including the former treasurer, Luis Barcenas, for crimes allegedly carried out between 1999 and 2005.

In a 507-page document submitted to the court, prosecutors recommended that Barcenas be charged with six crimes including tax fraud, money laundering and embezzelment. The document was made public Friday.

If found guilty, they said, Barcenas should be given a jail sentence of 42-and-a-half years.

The massive bribes-for-contracts scheme allegedly extended to six regional Popular Party governments and operated from 1999 to 2009, when investigations into the case began.

Investigators are still looking into other crimes that allegedly took place as part of the affair.

The case has been a source of deep embarrassment to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is facing a general election at the end of the year.

It is one of a series of high-profile corruption scandals involving politicians of all political stripes, businesses, football clubs and even the king's sister. Hundreds of people have been charged in corruption cases and are awaiting trial.

Barcenas, who has been in custody since June 2013, has admitted to channeling millions of euros in donations from builders and other business leaders into the pockets of Popular Party leaders.

But he has denied that a personal fortune which he was found to have in a Swiss bank came from the fund he oversaw. He claims he earned it from art dealing and other investments.

Barcenas said he was being made into a scapegoat and could account for his Swiss fortune, in an interview published Friday in conservative daily newspaper ABC.

"They want me to be the icon of all corruption. When they talk of the Gurtel case they can say: 'We have the treasurer in jail'. It is good that I stay here for electoral reasons," he said.

Barcenas worked for the Popular Party from the early 1980s until 2009, mostly in the accounting department. He was officially party treasurer from 2008 to 2009.

Anti-corruption prosecutors recommended that Barcenas's wife Rosalia Iglesias be jailed for 24 years and that the alleged mastermind of the "Gurtel" kickbacks scheme, businessman Francisco Correa, get 111 years behind bars.

Polls show corruption is Spaniards' biggest concern apart from unemployment, which at 24 percent is one of the highest levels in the industrialized world.

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© 2015 AFP

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