Spanish watchdog probes payments to top judge

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Baltasar Garzon received payment of USD 200,000 for speaking at conferences in the United States but is suspected of not declaring it to his employer.

MADRID – The body that oversees Spain's judiciary opened a probe Tuesday into payments received by prominent investigative judge Baltasar Garzon for speaking at conferences in the United States.

In a unanimous decision, the disciplinary committee of the CGPJ said it would look into the USD 200,000 (EUR 158,000) which he received for the conferences delivered at New York University in 2005 and 2006.

Garzon was on leave from his job at the National Audience, Spain's top criminal court, when he addressed the conferences.

The move came one day after the Supreme Court shelved a corruption complaint made against Garzon in November by a lawyer who accused the judge of receiving money from Santander, Spain's biggest bank, as payment for the conferences.

But the court ruled that the CGPJ should consider disciplinary action against the 53-year-old judge for the USD 200,000 which he received for the conferences and which he is suspected of not declaring to his employer.

Garzon, who was thrust into the international limelight in 1998 with his attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, has denied any wrongdoing.

If he had sought to hide the payments he received for the conference he would not have declared the sums to US and Spanish tax authorities, a source close to the judge told AFP.

In a separate case, the CGPJ shelved a complaint by the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), which accused Garzon of "maladministration" in his handling of a corruption scandal.

The PP has accused Garzon of partiality over an investigation he opened last month into suspicions that regional PP politicians received backhanders from entrepreneurs for awarding public works contracts.

The PP argues the probe is politically motivated and as Garzon is known to be a supporter of the ruling Socialist Party.

Garzon, who has investigated drug lords, arms traffickers and terrorists, on Friday transferred this investigation to regional courts in Madrid and Valencia.

AFP / Expatica

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