Head of government to testify in one of largest corruption scandals in history of democracy in Spain
ACN | Madrid 25th July
The Spanish President Mariano Rajoy will become the first head of the executive in Spain to be called before a court as a witness, in the so-called ‘Gürtel’ case. The case is one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent Spanish history and reaches deep into Rajoy’s ruling People’s Party. The Gürtel case is an ongoing investigation into a corruption network allegedly headed by businessman Francisco Correa (“Correa” means “belt” or “Gürtel” in German). Correa is accused of bribing political officials in the People’s Party with money and gifts in exchange for contracts. The summary of the case goes back to 2007 and is the bulkiest in the history of a high court.
Rajoy will testify on Wednesday at 10am in the Audiencia Nacional high court in Madrid, amid what is sure to be great media expectation and security. The president is appearing before the court as a consequence of accusations made by the Association of Democratic Lawyers of Europe (Adade), and he will give answers about the first stage of the ‘Gürtel’ case. As Rajoy will give witness testimony, he is legally obliged to answer truthfully.
Videoconference request turned down
The Spanish government and the People’s Party wanted the Spanish president to give his court testimony by videoconference, arguing security reasons and police costs. However, the court’s counterargument was that Rajoy is not appearing as the head of the government but as a private citizen, and therefore comes under article 14 of the Spanish Constitution, which safeguards the equality of all Spaniards before the law.
Yet, Rajoy’s party has framed the president’s personal appearance as a willingness to “cooperate with justice”, therefore trying to play the situation down. Moreover, the People’s Party has criticized the Adade association as being close to the PSOE socialist party, and alleges that “political interests” are behind the accusation.
As for Adade, the association maintains that the Spanish president’s appearance is important, as it could shed more light on the awarding of contracts to companies that were part of the ‘Gürtel’ plot. At the time, Rajoy occupied the post of general vice secretary of the People’s Party and was responsible for electoral matters between 1990 and 2003.
Free agenda until Thursday
The Spanish president has cleared his public agenda of events in the days leading up to his appearance in the Audiencia Nacional. Rajoy wanted time to review all the documentation provided by the People’s Party lawyers and focus on what he will tell the court. However, on Thursday, his agenda will resume, with a cabinet meeting on Friday to present the traditional summary of political activity before the summer vacation begins.