Spanish corruption probe uncovers bribe system

16th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Judge Baltasar Garzon says firms have been set up to cover up bribes paid to civil servants and public authorities.

MADRID – A judge probing alleged corruption involving businessmen with close ties to Spain's main opposition Popular Party said Friday he had uncovered a system of bribes used to secure government favours.

In his written order to remand in custody three of the main suspects, judge Baltasar Garzon said the system involved "handouts and bribes to civil servants and public authorities" to secure contracts or other favourable treatment.

One of three people remanded in custody was Francisco Correa, an entrepreneur who has organised PP events and who is suspected of running the corruption scheme.

In his detention order, Garzon said Correa was suspected of setting up several firms, some of them in tax havens, to launder the money.

Garzon, a top judge best-known internationally for his pursuit of Latin American dictators, did not name who was suspected of receiving the bribes.

Spanish daily El Pais reported Friday that three top PP members in the Madrid region, which it did not name, received bribes totalling EUR 400,000 in 2006 and 2007.

Garzon has so far charged 37 people, including the three main suspects. The first arrests were made on 6 February.

PP leader Mariano Rajoy on Thursday accused Garzon and Justice Minister Mariano Fernandez Bermejo of leaking information on the case to the press in a bid to influence regional elections scheduled for 1 March in Galicia and the northeastern Basque Country.

"This is not a PP affair but an affair against the PP," he said at party headquarters, surrounded by senior party members.

Rajoy has announced an internal investigation into the corruption allegations.

The regional elections in Galicia and the Basque Country are seen as a test of his leadership and could lead to renewed calls for him to resign.

The conservative party has been plagued by infighting since Rajoy led it to its second straight general election loss in March 2008.

[AFP / Expatica]

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