Gürtel case: PP convicted for corruption a third time
Spanish High Court sentences former mayor to 36 years in prison, and the party will have to pay €204,200 in Boadilla del Monte
MadridAlberto Núñez Feijóo's tenure as PP president has started with a third sentence against the party for corruption. The first, for favouring cronies in public tenders, ended with Mariano Rajoy's government; the second, for setting up a slush fund, exploded under Pablo Casado's leadership; and now comes the related case in the Madrid town of Boadilla del Monte, where the awarding of public contracts to Francisco Correa's business group in exchange for commissions for party officials was established as a modus operandi between 2001 and 2009. The main convicted person is the former mayor, Arturo González Panero, to 36 years and 11 months in prison, but the PP will have to pay €204,198 as it profited from the arrangement.
The sentence, which was adopted unanimously by the magistrates José Antonio Mora, José Ricardo de Prada and María Dolores Hernández, considers proven that the conservative party benefited from funds obtained illicitly by Correa's group. They were used for campaign events for the municipal elections of 2003 and 2007. The judicial resolution reflects that the criminal activity started from the dynamics already reflected in the first ruling against the party, upheld by the Supreme Court. "Correa personally negotiated the awarding of public contracts in contravention of the rules governing public procurement in order for contracts to be awarded to companies selected by the group in exchange for the payment of a 'commission', or for his own companies, and remunerated public officials with competence or capacity to influence in the contracts," the magistrates state.
The leader of the network has been sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison, as has his number 2, Pablo Crespo, for bribery, fraud, forgery, influence peddling, misfeasance, crimes against the public treasury and money laundering. The Prosecutor's Office had already requested the mitigating factors of confession and cooperation in the recovery of the money, and the court has taken them into account. On the other hand, the judges maintain that González Panero has not made any "effort" to face the damage caused. There is a total of 23 people convicted, including former councillors and former officials of the Municipal Company of Land and Housing (EMSV) of Boadilla, through which much of the corrupt scheme worked.
One of the many examples included in the sentence is the following: in 2003, the EMVS awarded three urban remodelling works. First, the City Council handed the plots over to the EMSV and the defendant Tomás Martín Morales, ex-manager of the municipal company, approved the specifications and bases of the three tenders. The characteristics are that little importance is given to the economic offer and a lot to the execution period. Aware of this, the accused Alfonso García Pozuelo presents a proposal in along these lines and Martín Morales accepts it, without informing the competent body. The amounts are €587,064, €247,812 and €261,289. In exchange for Correa's intermediation, García Pozuelo gave him €288,485 euros, which he distributed to Crespo, the former PP councilman José Galeote, the former mayor González Panero, Martín Morales himself and €30,050 for the party's campaign that year. The sentence describes three more cases in which the PP obtained donations: one of €24,901 euros, one of €120,000 and another of €29,247.
"Obvious" benefit for the PP
This trial was characterised by the avalanche of confessions of the accused. There was already the precedent of the sentence in the first case against the party. Among the evidence, undisguised documents such as one called Pufos Boadilla [Boadilla swindles]. Most of those convicted have benefited from lenient sentences, except for the PP, which did not admit it benefited. In addition, it had alleged that the facts were time-barred, which the court did not agree with. The party's defence also argued that the party's alleged benefit had to be accredited and the sentence is forceful: "The PP's benefit is evident and derives precisely from the payment by a third party of the amount of the payments already described and destined to the maintenance of the organisation itself and which correlatively supposes a lower expense for the party". The sentence can be appealed first before the High Court and then to the Supreme Court.
While awaiting Feijóo's reaction, the first vice-president of the Spanish government, Nadia Calviño, has expressed hope that the Galician politician will bring about a change in the public management of the PP. "It will be positive if with the new leadership in the PP they find a way to leave behind the streak marked by corruption and open a new time in which the honest and clean management of public resources is the main guide of a party that has to be a reference for citizens," she said. Even so, a new front has opened for the conservative party, as contracts signed during the pandemic by Isabel Díaz Ayuso and José Luis Martínez Almeida go under the courts' scrutiny.