Spain starts “biggest corruption trial”

Spain starts “biggest corruption trial” Thirty-seven people, including leading members of Spain's ruling Popular Party, have gone on trial in Madrid accused of involvement in a massive corruption network, BBC reported on Tuesday.

Three former PP treasurers are among the defendants in Spain's biggest corruption trial for years.

Businessman Francisco Correa is alleged to have been the ringleader who handed out bribes in exchange for contracts. Correa, who faces up to 125 years if found guilty, has already spent three years in custody.

The so-called Gurtel case has electrified Spain for years, since it was exposed by a civil servant in a Madrid suburb and the case taken on by renowned investigating judge Baltasar Garzon.

Ex-civil servant Ana Garrido played a key role in exposing the alleged corruption network linked to Spain's ruling Popular Party (PP). Almost a decade ago she found that under the area's Popular Party mayor, a network of firms was being favoured without due process. Then she realised the dimensions of a scandal that spread far wider than her leafy area of Madrid.

Garrido's evidence ended up in the hands of investigating judge Baltasar Garzon. But her treatment at work has led to clinical depression and giving up her civil service career.

Judge Garzon was later taken off the case but not before allegations emerged of a network of companies linked to Correa being handed contracts in return for payments.

Other defendants include long-standing ex-PP treasurer Luis Barcenas, who has also admitted running a slush fund from Switzerland and channeling cash donations to party officials.

Health minister Ana Mato resigned from her job when her husband was linked to the network. Although her husband is among the defendants, she escaped criminal charges.

Although the case has for years been of great embarrassment for caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, he has not himself come under investigation.
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