Judge drops Gürtel charges filed against ex-PP treasurer

Former senator alerted party over bribery scheme, court finds; anti-corruption prosecutors to appeal dismissal of Bárcenas' case

A Madrid judge on Thursday dropped the investigation against former Popular Party (PP) treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who had been accused of money laundering and tax evasion in the mammoth Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts case. Anti-corruption prosecutors announced that they will appeal the ruling.

Regional High Court Judge Antonio Pedreira ruled that Bárcenas actually tried to swing the PP away from continuing to do business with alleged Gürtel ringleader Francisco Correa. "Relations between Correa and Bárcenas were bad," Pedreira wrote in his ruling. "Bárcenas warned about Francisco Correa's irregular conduct and warned about the need for the Popular Party's leadership to cut ties with Francisco Correa and his businesses."

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The judge also said that the statute of limitations had run out on the tax evasion charges Bárcenas was facing for the years 2002 and 2003. Bárcenas could not be charged with bribery because as party treasurer he was not an elected official, Pedreira said.

Bárcenas, a senator from Cantabria, was the highest PP official to be implicated in the Gürtel scandal when it broke in February 2009. He resigned as PP treasurer in April 2010. Days later he also gave up his Senate seat.

Police said that documents confiscated from a Gürtel suspect who kept the books for the payoffs to government officials listed an L. B. as receiving cash. But Pedreira considered "that there could be other people who have those same initials."

On June 1, Bárcenas' lawyers filed a motion with the court asking for a dismissal. The PP also filed a similar motion arguing that the material "lacks any objective elements that could lead to convictions on the serious charges he is facing."

In July, Francisco Camps, another top PP official accused in the Gürtel case, stepped down as Valencia's regional premier after he was indicted for receiving suits from Gürtel businessmen.

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