Camps' temper frays in Gürtel trial

Judge refuses to allow testimony aimed at proving contracts did not follow gifts

Francisco Camps, the former Valencian premier on the dock for accepting expensive gifts from a corrupt business network, lost his cool on day 12 of the trial. When the presiding judge repeatedly refused to let Camps' star witnesses say whether they were told to favor the Gürtel network through contract awards, Camps began fidgeting in his seat and speaking to the people in the first row, made up of family and friends.

"Mr Camps, keep quiet or I will have to expel you from the room, as the law authorizes me to do! I won't say it again!" warned Judge Juan Climent. "If you want to speak privately with your lawyer, do so calmly and don't let any of us hear you."

The reason the witnesses could not be heard out is that this particular trial only deals with whether an elected official accepted gifts while holding office - a crime known in Spain as cochecho impropio - rather than whether those gifts were actually traded in for business favors later on - or cohecho propio - a possibility that is being investigated separately.

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Tailor sews doubt in Camps' dress suit payment story

Prosecutors in fact suspect that the Camps administration paid out eight million euros to a ring led by Francisco Correa (whose surname translates into belt in English and Gürtel in German, hence the name of the case). Around a dozen officials from the former Valencian government have been indicted in connection with the irregular awarding of contracts.

The Gürtel ring operated nationwide and bribed numerous Popular Party (PP) officials in exchange for public contracts over the years. Its Valencian branch was led by a man named Álvaro Pérez (alias "the Mustache"), who allegedly gave Camps 12 tailored suits, four jackets, five pairs of shoes and four ties worth over 14,000 euros between late 2005 and 2008.

For over two years, the 48-year-old Camps denied having accepted expensive clothes from the Gürtel network, then later changed his story and said he only accepted them as head of the regional PP, not as Valencian premier, a position he held between June 2003 and July 2011, when he resigned in order to prepare for his trial.

Despite the shadow of corruption, Camps had been overwhelmingly re-elected for office in elections last May.

In a bid to show that his administration did not favor Orange Market, a Gürtel-controlled events organization firm, Camps' defense brought in several witnesses, some of whom are facing charges of their own in connection with irregular PP party financing in the Mediterranean region. But instead of supporting his case, the witnesses' presence ultimately underscored the close relationship between the Camps administration, the Valencian PP and the Valencian branch of the Gürtel network.

Up until now, the star witness in the case has been José Tomás, the tailor who made the suits for Camps, and who unveiled that the former premier personally phoned him to ask him to remove his name from some of the bills. "Get me out of this and when this is all over you will never want for anything again," Tomás quoted Camps as promising him.

Francisco Camps arrives at the Valencia court where he is standing trial.
Francisco Camps arrives at the Valencia court where he is standing trial.JORDI VICENT

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