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Corruption probe may include Spanish lawmakers

MADRID – A corruption probe involving businessmen with ties to Spain’s conservative opposition party widened Wednesday with the "possible" implication of national lawmakers, a judicial document showed.

The document which AFP has learned about comes from the judge in the case, Baltazar Garzon, who says one or several lawmakers may be implicated in the case, but does not list either their names or party affiliation.

Garzon’s probe previously implicated only local lawmakers belonging to the opposition Popular Party (PP).

The document did not identify names of the new suspects but Spanish media said PP treasurer Luis Barcena and European Parliament lawmaker Gerardo Galeote, who also belongs to the party, were under investigation.

Earlier Wednesday Garzon formally denied that a senior party member from the Valencia region was under suspicion, as reported by top-selling daily newspaper El Pais but he did not deny that Barcena was a suspect as the newspaper also reported.

The news came as the high-profile judge asked the prosecutor’s office Wednesday if he should withdraw from the case as it was technically beyond his competence, even as the PP filed a complaint against Garzon for "corrupt practices".

The tangled case has sparked a separate controversy, after the PP criticised Spain’s former justice minister of going on a hunting trip with Garzon. The minister in question, Mariano Fernandez Bermejo, resigned Monday.

Garzon asked prosecutors if he should be removed from the case as he is affiliated with the National Audience, Spain’s highest criminal court that is technically not competent to investigate Spanish lawmakers.

Garzon has so far charged 37 people in the case since the first arrests were made on 6 February.

One of them is Francisco Correa, an entrepreneur who has organised PP events and is reported to be behind murky building permits and other lucrative contracts awarded by PP municipal councils in Madrid, Valencia and elsewhere.

For his part, PP leader Mariano Rajoy accused former minister Bermejo and Garzon of leaking information to the press in a bid to influence Sunday’s regional elections in the Basque Country and the Galicia region.

AFP / Expatica