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GÜRTEL SCANDAL

Health minister innocent of any wrongdoing, says ex-husband

Former PP mayor Jesús Sepúlveda declines to answer judge’s questions in corruption case

Fernando J. Pérez
Jesús Sepúlveda, the ex-husband of Health Minister Ana Mato, leaves court on Wednesday.
Jesús Sepúlveda, the ex-husband of Health Minister Ana Mato, leaves court on Wednesday.Angel Díaz (EFE)

The estranged husband of Health Minister Ana Mato, Jesús Sepúlveda, who has been implicated in the Gürtel kickbacks-for contracts scandal, said on Wednesday that his former wife was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

“She’s innocent,” said Sepúlveda after leaving the High Court in Madrid, where he declined to answer any questions on the Gürtel case. Sepúlveda had remained on the ruling Popular Party until he was dismissed at the start of this week despite having been named in 2009 as a suspect in the Gürtel case, in which a number of PP officials have been implicated. He was given a job as an advisor to the party after standing down as mayor of the upmarket Madrid dormitory town of Pozuelo.

A number of onlookers jeered Sepúlveda as he entered the High Court building on Wednesday with his lawyer, calling him a “thief” and a “scoundrel.” He left the court just 15 minutes after entering it after exercising his right to remain silent.

According to secret ledgers kept by the Gürtel ring in an industrial complex in the Madrid area, the Sepúlveda-Mato family received luxury gifts and paid for trips both in Spain and abroad worth some 50,000 euros in the period 2000 to 2004. Sepúlveda rejects accusations of wrongdoing. He faces charges of bribery, misuse of public funds and tax fraud among others.

A number of onlookers jeered Sepúlveda as he entered the High Court building

Meanwhile, Mato on Wednesday said in Congress that she did not intend to resign over the Gürtel case, claiming that she paid for the trips and luxury goods herself. “I am going to remain at the head of the ministry,” she said in response to calls from a lawmaker of the main opposition Socialist Party, Eduardo Madina, for her to step down. Mato said she continued to have the backing of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Mato drew attention to the fact that at one point the case had been shelved. “Mr Madina, this case was seen by a judge and was shelved,” she said. “However, you continue to conduct a political witch hunt.” The police have unearthed other gifts that were given to the Sepúlveda-Mato family.

In apparent reference to her husband, Mato said she was being blamed for things done by other people. Asked to comment on Mato’s remarks when leaving the High Court, Sepúlveda replied: “That’s her opinion.”

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