Spain to reopen probe into senior opposition member

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Spain's Supreme Court decided Wednesday to reopen a corruption investigation into a close ally of conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, court sources said.

A court in the eastern region of Valencia had last August dropped the probe against the head of the regional government, Francisco Camps, a senior member of Spain's opposition Popular Party.

But an appeal by prosecutors and the local branch of the Socialist Party convinced the Supreme Court to reopen the investigation, the sources said.

The probe is linked to a scandal in which bribes were allegedly paid to opposition PP members in the regional governments of Madrid and Valencia by businessmen in exchange for contracts.

Around 70 people, including several PP members, are under investigation in the scandal, which has led to the resignation of the PP's former treasurer, Luis Barcenas.

Wednesday's decision is a blow to Rajoy, whose party is now virtually neck and neck with the governing Socialists of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in opinion polls despite the country's economic crisis and soaring unemployment.

Last October, Rajoy ordered the dismissal of Camps' deputy in Valencia, Ricardo Costa, over the affair.

But he recently voiced his support for Camps, a regional stalwart of the party.

Francisco Correa, a businessman and PP event organiser, and Pablo Crespo, a former head of the PP in the northwestern region of Galicia, were arrested in February 2009 in connection with the case.

Correa allegedly held a number of secret accounts under the name "Don Vito".

A police dossier on the scandal released last month included allegations that Correa served as an intermediary between real estate companies and PP legislators, handing out gifts in return for public contracts.

© 2010 AFP

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