Gürtel case: after over a decade of investigations, the National Court dictates sentence

Luis García [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, after over 10 years of investigation and trials, the National Court has dictated sentence for the most complex political corruption case in Spain.

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​In 2009, one of the worst political and corruption scandal broke out in modern Spain. The investigation was started by the now well-known judge Baltasar Garzón. Over the next few months, after the investigation started, various media outlets published vast amounts of information concerning this corruption case, leaving the country impressed by the sheer size of the situation, as well as by how far the corruption had reached.

The case, which started during the Aznar government (1996-2004), involved both businessmen and politicians that used their influence and the PP (“People’s Party”, conservative) to make money. The current trial only covers the main part of the case, which is how public contracts were handed out and how public Administrations overpaid for them. The private companies who obtained these overpriced public contracts thanks to the help of their political friends would then later on share part of the extra money between them, fuelling this constant cycle.

This system is similar to the method used by the Catalonians, with the already famous “3%”, where some of the independentist leaders and businessmen kept a certain percentage of each public contract.

The most well-known politicians involved in this case are Bárcenas, ex-treasurer of the PP, and the businessman Correa. Bárcenas received payments in the “B Account” of the PP, a separated account that didn’t appear on the official accounts of the PP. The payments to this “B Account” weren’t declared, to avoid paying tax to Hacienda (tax authority in Spain), and was used to pay some of the people involved. In other cases, this account was also used to finance various political campaigns.

Since last week, the National Court has imposed and confirmed different jail sentences. Until today, 29 out of the 37 accused people have received jail sentences, with Francisco Correa getting the highest one, sentenced to 51 years of prison. Guillermo Ortega has been sentenced to 38 years, and Luis Bárcenas to 33 years.

Monday 28th, 15 of the 29 accused people had to come to the National Court. Three of them will be going to prison without bailing option, as the risk of them fleeing is very high. These people are Luis Bárcenas, Guillermo Ortega and Alberto López Viejo. Wednesday, the magistrates have asked 12 other accused people to come, to announce their sentence.

These sentences close the first chapter of the Gürtel case, while other trials are still ongoing, covering other aspects of the case.

The reaction from other political parties was immediate. The PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) has introduced a censorship requests against Rajoy, which will be debated Thursday and Friday in the Congress. This request comes in a bad moment, taking in account the issues in Catalonia haven’t been solved yet, and Article 155 is still being enforced. On top of that, Spain currently has a bad reputation outside of the country, due to the case of Puigdemont, as well as internal instability. Therefore, this request could further debilitate the country and create more stability issues.

We should also mention that many people see the reaction from the PSOE as opportunistic, as they are using the corruption of the Gürtel case to become the biggest party in the country.