POLITICAL CORRUPTION

Second top PP finance official charged in Gürtel kickbacks inquiry

Party's 2008 election accountant joins long list of Valencia conservatives under judicial scrutiny

Another Popular Party (PP) finance official has been charged as a defendant in the ongoing inquiry into whether the political organization in Valencia received illegal contributions from a group of corrupt businessmen as part of the Gürtel conspiracy.

Cristóbal Páez, the PP’s general accountant during the 2008 elections, is facing charges of falsifying accounts and purposely omitting certain expenditures and revenue that the party received in 2007-2008.

Páez formed part of the party’s finance team headed then-treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who is facing tax fraud charges and with receiving illegal payoffs also stemming from the Gürtel investigation. After Bárcenas resigned from his post when he was initially indicted in 2009, Páez was promoted by secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal, the Castilla-La Mancha regional premier. However, he was removed from the position a few months later after internal pressure grew.

Valencia regional High Court Judge José Ceres, in charge of the inquiry into the part of the Gürtel case that deals with illegal party financing, has subpoenaed 19 current and former PP officials in the region to testify between April 25 and April 30. Among those who will have to face Judge Ceres are Ricardo Costa, the former PP regional secretary general who was acquitted earlier this year, along with former premier Francisco Camps, on charges that he received dress suits and gifts from Gürtel co-conspirators.

Ceres has also ordered Vicente Rambla, the former deputy regional premier, and Milagrosa Martínez and Angélica Such — both former tourism chiefs — to appear in court next month.

One of the anti-corruption prosecutors’ allegations is that owners of Orange Market, an alleged Gürtel front company, paid off the PP in exchange for more than five million euros in contracts to set up Valencia’s tourism exhibit at the annual Fitur fair.

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