Arrests of top PP officials in Madrid

BALLESTEROS

Members of the Operative Central Unity of the Civil Guard accompained former Madrid's regional government president Ignacio Gonzalez (C), before a search at his office during the anti corruption operation linked with the public water management agency Canal de Isabel II in Madrid, Spain, 19 April 2019. Ignacio Gonzalez has been arrested in the frame of the operation for alleged irregularities in the management of Canal de Isabel II.

Arrests of top PP officials in Madrid


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A Spanish judge arrested 12 high-profile members of the ruling Popular Party in Spain on Wednesday, including Madrid’s former premier, Ignacio González.

Former regional leader (2012-2015)

Police raided González’s home and office, detaining his brother and his nephew, El Pais reports.

The regional PP premier from 2012 to 2015 is linked to an alleged money laundering operation, which channeled public funds through Madrid’s water company (Canal de Isabel II), to personally enrich members of the González administration, while also paying for electoral campaigns.

The operation allegedly entailed bloating the price of assets the water company acquired in Latin America, siphoning the excess amount to offshore businesses in Panama. Apparently, more than 20 companies were acquired during González’s chairmanship of the company. A single Brazilian water company bought in 2013, Emissao, was allegedly bought for a price that exceeded its valuation by more than 100%.

Current regional leader (est. 2015)

That is not the first corruption case in which the former Madrid’s former premier is embroiled. But, the “Operation Lezo” investigation is now widening in scope as the editor, and the president of the newspaper La Razón are expected to testify on Thursday. Francisco Marhuenda and Mauricio Casals allegedly blackmailed González’s successor in the premiership of Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, not to report the irregularities emerging in the water company.

Former regional leader (2003-2012)

The scandal is also threatening Esperanza Aguirre, who served as Madrid’s regional leader from 2003 to 2012. Ignacio González was her aid, before he became her successor. Aguirre remains the regional PP leader.

The Interior Minister of the PP government, Juan Ignacio Zoido, hailed the arrests as proof that the justice system operates independently to guarantee there is “no impunity.” Madrid’s arrests come a day after Spain’s Supreme Court ordered Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to testify in the Gürtel case that has rocked the Spanish Popular Party.

“Systemic Issue”

The Gürtel scandal involves a corrupt business network that is operating in six Spanish regions from 1999 to 2005, run by Francisco Correa, offering cash to PP officials in exchange for public works contracts.

Mr. Rajoy was the leader of the Popular Party while its treasurer, Luis Barcenas, had allegedly established a slush fund from kickbacks, ensuring the money was siphoned to a network of tax heavens, including Panama.

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