POLITICAL CORRUPTION

Gürtel ring provided discounts to Popular Party during Aznar era

Secret accounts show how corrupt network charged double for other events laid on for conservative-run administrations

The secret accounts kept by the Gürtel corruption ring in dozens of boxes stored in a warehouse in Alcorcón, Madrid, record a history of business dealings, all connected to the national Popular Party and regional administrations also under its control. Among the documents were the invoices for services rendered free of charge at the wedding of Alejandro Agag and Ana Aznar, the daughter of former Prime Minister José María Aznar.

The files seized by police over two years ago, to which EL PAÍS has had access, demonstrate the disproportionate profits the ring received in the form of public contracts from state airport authority AENA, managed by the Public Works Ministry, and through numerous town halls run by PP mayors. The accounts also record the losses incurred by the Gürtel conspirators when putting on electoral events for the PP, which were even provided free of charge, such as that thrown by Aznar in Marbella to present Ángeles Muñoz’s candidacy for the mayorship in 2002, or with huge discounts, like the Valencia regional PP’s convention that same year.

What follows shows just a small portion of the Gürtel accounts from the period covered by Aznar’s premiership.

Free or discounted events

On November 26, 2002, six months before municipal elections, incumbent Prime Minister Aznar traveled to Marbella to support Ángeles Muñoz’s campaign. Special Events, the Gürtel company that organized all of the PP’s electoral acts, took care of the staging and decoration of the pavilion that hosted the dinner. The cost of these services was noted in the accounts as losses amounting to 5,245 euros with a note next to it: “Gift from Mr Correa” — the indicted leader of the corrupt ring of businessmen.

In the case of the Valencia regional PP convention in 2002, the real cost incurred by Special Events was 20,067 euros for staging the event at the Palau de la Música. But in another annotation, “by order of Álvaro [Pérez, the Gürtel frontman in the region],” the regional PP was billed for only 6,010 euros.

Municipal contracts

Among the swaths of paper handed over the judge investigating the Gürtel ring are hundreds of contracts with town halls governed by the PP with profit margins that in many cases exceed 100 percent in favor of the corruption network. One of the most stand-out examples is the accounting records for the Luis del Olmo Journalism Awards held on June 16, 2002 in the main square of La Nucia, a municipality in Alicante governed by the PP.

The Gürtel ring, which was hired to organize the entire event, invoiced 305,662 euros. According to the paperwork seized by police, the ring recorded the real cost as 184,708 euros, handing it a tidy profit of 121,000 euros.

Among the list of services rendered at the awards is the cost of hiring the presenter, which was written down as 6,010 euros but the municipal government was invoiced for double that amount. The real cost of the set and decorations was 90,000 euros. The invoice that landed on the local authority’s desk was for 120,202.

AENA

Francisco Correa, the Gürtel ring’s mastermind, boasted in front of former High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón that he had won contracts with the state’s airports authority because of his friendship with Francisco Álvarez-Cascos, public works minister from 2000 to 2004. The documentation stored in an Alcorcón warehouse details many of the services provided by Correa’s companies to AENA, with profit margins close to 100 percent.

An event noted under the heading “Barajas new terminal inauguration, laying of first stone” on June 20, 2000 was organized by Special Events, which invoiced the company that had won the contract to construct the terminal 26,772,000 pesetas (160,000 euros). In the secret accounts, the real cost of 14,593,000 pesetas (88,000 euros) is noted.

Correa also told an associate that he had given some six million euros to former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas for “the awarding of contracts during the time of Álvarez-Cascos.”

Two ex-AENA executives are under investigation in the Gürtel case for paying illegal commissions to ensure favorable contract bids on behalf of the Gürtel network.