9 Sep, 2020 @ 11:53
1 min read

Judge in Spain examining spy network linked to infamous Gürtel corruption case that implicated top politicians

Luis Barcenas e
Luis Barcenas

A HIGH court judge has started examining the findings of a report into a spying network that allegedly aimed to protect high-ranking politicians from a corruption investigation.

The findings of a lengthy investigation codenamed Operation Kitchen that probed the activities of two senior policemen has been presented to the court.

It is alleged that an illegal spying operation including wiretaps was run against disgraced former Partido Popular (PP) treasurer Luis Bárcenas. Its aim was to prevent secret accounts listing payments to politicians in the Gürtel corruption scandal which rocked the governing PP coming to light.

Luis Barcenas e
Luis Barcenas is serving 33 years

The move comes just a few days after two senior politicians were named as possibly being involved in an illegal operation.

Anti-corruption prosecutors named former Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz and former Defense Minister, and ex-PP secretary general, María Dolores de Cospedal as allegedly asking former police chief José Manuel Villarejo  to ‘carry out tasks that would be paid with PP funds.’

Villarejo has been held in pre-trial custody since 2017

Bárcenas was a key figure in the Gürtel case in which illegal corporate donations were made to the PP and cash payments handed to a string of politicians.

He was found to have millions of euros hidden in Swiss bank accounts.

In 2013 Spanish newspaper El Pais revealed that he ran a parallel bookkeeping system to keep track of the hidden funds. In 2018 dozens of people were convicted in the Gürtel case, leading to a vote of no confidence in the then ruling PP government.

Operation Kitchen was launched to investigate claims that there was a plot to track down and destroy documents in the possession of Bárcenas, who is now serving a 33-year sentence for corruption.

It is alleged that senior officials in the Ministry of the Interior started the spying operation to keep the documents out of the hands of the courts.

Retired police chief Villarejo –  who is believed to have run a spying network using phone taps and secret recordings  against judges, politicians, journalists and businessmen for around 20 years – was given the task.

Court documents state there is evidence that between 2013 and 2015 Villarejo, together with another police chief,  Enrique García Castaño were ordered to steal  documents that would have implicated high-ranking  PP officials.

They are alleged to have persuaded the Barcénas family chauffeur – a police officer named Sergio Ríos – to cooperate with the secret operation.

This latest investigation is viewed as a ticking bomb under the PP with it almost certain to implicate more of the party’s senior figures.

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