GÜRTEL CORRUPTION TRIAL

Indicted Gürtel gift-giver denies handing out suits to Camps

Pérez refuses to answer questions after making a statement; former councilor calls Correa "ninth" most powerful PP official

One of the key figures in the Gürtel public corruption investigation, suspected of giving suits and other gifts to Valencia's ex-regional chief Francisco Camps and another former top Popular Party (PP) official, was called to the stand in their ongoing trial Thursday but refused to testify.

Instead, Álvaro Pérez - who managed a special-events company called Orange Market and has been indicted in the case - made a brief statement denying he and his firm handed out dress suits "to the four indicted defendants."

Camps and Ricardo Costa, the former PP secretary general in Valencia, are on trial before the High Court on bribery charges for accepting gifts in exchange for giving fat contracts to Orange Market and other Gürtel-related companies. The two other "indicted defendants" that Pérez referred to - former deputy regional premier Víctor Campos and former tourism director Rafael Betoret - pleaded out in the summer.

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Pérez's lawyer told High Court Judge Juan Climent that her client would not testify but instead wanted to make a statement. Prosecutors and the defense team for both Camps and Costas immediately asked whether he would be doing so in his capacity as an indicted defendant or as a witness.

"He wants to make a statement," said the lawyer, who eventually was pressed to tell the court he would be making it as an indicted defendant. The question was an important one because if Pérez decided to enter his statement as a witness he would have to be sworn in and opened to questioning by prosecutors.

Also testifying was José Luis Peñas, ex-PP councilman in Majadahonda, who secretly recorded conversations held with people connected to the Gürtel network that were doing business in the Madrid suburb. He turned the recordings over to anti-corruption prosecutors in 2007 when he saw things he didn't like. Peñas said Francisco Correa, the now-jailed Gürtel mastermind, was the "eighth or ninth" most powerful official inside the PP.

Álvaro Pérez, the indicted manager of Orange Market, confers with his lawyer during the Gürtel trial on Thursday.
Álvaro Pérez, the indicted manager of Orange Market, confers with his lawyer during the Gürtel trial on Thursday.Kai Försterling (EFE)
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