12 dead in 12 years: the Gürtel curse

Suicides and unexpected or suspicious deaths surround the investigation into the corrupt plot

Joan Abel Yuste
4 min
Rafael Naranjo, Rita Barberar and Antonio Pedreira

The death of businessman Rafael Palencia on 14 October was the latest death of a person under investigation in the Gürtel plot and adds to a long list. Since the beginning of the investigation, the Gürtel curse has accumulated more than a dozen deaths, some of them in strange circumstances or a few days before testifying.

JUAN PÉREZ MORA (summer 2009)

The false judge who deceived Correa

He was a salesman of diet products who made Ángel Correa believe that he was a judge of the National Court and that he could make Baltasar Garzón give up investigating him. It was suspected that he could have been an infiltrated police agent, but it could never be proved because he committed suicide a few months later.


The father of Bárcenas' front man

He was the father of Luis Bárcenas' front man. His participation was considered key in the economic movements of the plot. He could not even be summoned to court because he died four days after being charged and a week before he was due to testify.


The corrupt businesswoman who committed suicide

She was the wife of the PP spokesman in the Senate Tomás Burgos and was charged for having administered screen companies in Pozuelo de Alarcón, the municipality where Jesús Sepúlveda, husband of former minister Ana Mato, was mayor. Her death is one of the darkest because she committed suicide in a hotel in Bilbao.


The man in charge of sounding the Pope

He was a construction businessman close to the Galician PP during the era of Manuel Fraga. He was investigated for having attempted to assassinate a political rival and was linked to the Gürtel case for having been commissioned to sound the Pope's visit to Valencia, despite his lack of experience. He died at the age of 86 in the Canary Islands.


The dead examining magistrate

He was the Gürtel investigating judge for three years, the period in which the list of accused became longer and the most ramifications of the plot appeared. He denounced the political pressures and the lack of means to investigate and died due to a brain accident. He took some of the secrets of the case to his grave.

The investigating judge of the "Gúrtel case" in the High Court of Justice of Madrid (TSJM), Antonio Pedreira

ISIDRO CUBEROS (October 2015)

The press chief found in a ravine

He was the former press chief of Javier Arenas and was accused of being the intermediary in the awarding of exhibitions to companies linked to Francisco Correa. He appeared dead in a ravine in Malaga after three days of having disappeared with his motorcycle.


The Pozuelo "engineer"

He was the municipal architect of Pozuelo de Alarcón, one of the areas most affected by the Gürtel case, when Sepúlveda was mayor. He was investigated for having collected commissions from the debts of the construction companies contracted by the consistory, the richest in the state. He died after a long illness.

RITA BARBERÀ (November 2016)

The multi-investigated mayoress

She was mayor of Valencia for twenty-four years, more than enough time to end up splashed by the Taula, Nóos, Imelsa and Gürtel cases. Accused of having irregularly financed the PP during the 2015 campaign, she is still claimed by some today. She was found dead in a hotel in Madrid, due to a cardiac arrest, two days after testifying at the Supreme Court.

Rita Barberà


The treasurer who stumbled at home

He was treasurer of the PP from 1993 to 2008, before Bárcenas. His participation in the plot could not be investigated because in 2016 the investigation against him was archived for "supervening dementia". In 2013 he suffered a fall at home that left him in a coma and in 2015 an angina pectoris. He died in 2018.


The councilwoman who threw herself from a fourth floor

She was councilwoman for Culture in the city of Valencia and was the wife of Barberà's number 2 in the consistory. She was imputed by the Taula case and the Valencian branch of the Gürtel case. She committed suicide by throwing herself out of the fourth floor of her holiday home.

RAFAEL NARANJO (September 2019)

Cospedal's commissioner financier

He was the successful bidder of multiple contracts allegedly awarded by the mayor of Boadilla del Monte, and was suspected of having financed María Dolores de Cospedal's campaign for the presidency of Castilla-La Mancha. He died more than three years before his trial.

The former president of the Sufi S.A. company Rafael Naranjo

RAFAEL PALENCIA (October 2021)

The last of the dead investigators 

He was a businessman linked to alleged payments to the PP's B box in exchange for public contract awards. Owner of a wastewater treatment company, his involvement is linked to the Canal de Isabel II plot. He is the last witness linked to the plot who has died.