The benefit of a few was to the detriment of the many. The corrupt business ring known as Gürtel obtained over 115 million euros in contracts from public agencies as well as local and regional governments under Popular Party (PP) rule, according to an ongoing investigation.
That is without counting all the private contracts that the PP awarded the business conglomerate headed by Francisco Correa ("correa" translates as "belt" in English and "Gürtel" in German). The ransacking of taxpayers' money could be even greater, though, as the investigation has not concluded yet, four years after Correa's arrest.
More than 70 people face charges ranging from money laundering to bribing of public officials in a major case of political corruption involving the PP.
The investigation shows that the hefty profits were shared out among members of the ring and some of the politicians who helped them secure the contracts.
More than 70 people face charges ranging from money laundering to bribing of public officials
Millions of euros were also concealed from the tax authorities. Correa has declared himself without income for the last 12 years, and is thought to have cheated the state out of an estimated 18 million euros in income tax alone between 2002 and 2007.
The regions of Madrid and Valencia were the ring's main theater of operations. The towns of Majadahonda, Boadilla, Arganda and Pozuelo de Alarcón, outside the capital, were havens of corruption for years, according to the report. In Majadahonda alone, Gürtel businesses were awarded nearly 3.5 million euros' worth of public contracts between 2001 and 2005.
The Gürtel network first came to light in 2009, when EL PAÍS obtained information on a judicial investigation being led by the since-suspended Judge Baltasar Garzón. The highest-profile trial related to the probe was that of former Valencia premier Francisco Camps, who was acquitted of taking bribes by a jury.