In Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional yesterday they began to read the closing statements for the trial of the first part of the Gürtel case (1999-2005). This is the biggest corruption trial in the history of Spanish democracy and it involves a single party, the Partido Popular, which would love to see it hushed up. The prosecutor was particularly emphatic in her final remarks and penalty request for the 37 defendants. She explained that the ringleaders of Gürtel set up a slush fund to bribe PP officials, which became their “way of life”.
The trouble is that Gürtel was not merely a corrupt network that lined the pockets of a few unscrupulous elected officials, as the PP has argued, but it actually turned the PP’s Madrid HQ into the group’s operating base. The prosecutor herself stressed that, as well as individual people, the PP as a political party was funded illegally. It is unbelievable that a racket that involved the party’s treasurer, Luis Bárcenas (who is facing 39 years in jail), was not known to his immediate superiors and, in particular, to the man who had appointed him: PM Mariano Rajoy.
The criminal gang followed a very simple pattern: they would bribe PP officials in exchange for awarding government contracts to companies who paid them a percentage in return. It was a sweet deal which proves to what extent corruption was part and parcel of the last wave of speculative growth in Spain, between 1995 and 2007. Francisco Correa, the boss of the gang who faces a 125 year prison sentence, was a guest at the wedding of José María Aznar’s daughter, Ana, in 2002.
Yesterday, the PP’s deputy communications director Pablo Casado had the nerve to demand that those who are found guilty “feel the full weight of the law”. What about all the PP election campaigns that the defendants helped to pay for with the slush fund? Will the PP give up all the seats and offices which they won thanks to fraudulent election campaigns?
The PP is very quick to demand that the law be upheld, but they look the other way when justice proves that their party is a true criminal machine. This is the governing party in Spain, the party that —with the support of the PSOE and Ciudadanos— has decided to wipe out Catalonia’s self-rule.