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CORRUPT politics

Gürtel boss invoiced La Moncloa for trips during Aznar’s time in office

New court probe papers also show that kickbacks network offered top Popular Party officials luxury watches

A travel company owned by the Gürtel bribes-for-contracts network invoiced La Moncloa, the seat of government, for hundreds of trips during the administration of José María Aznar (1996-2004). Pasadena Viajes, the firm with which Gürtel ringleader Francisco Correa began his extensive business dealings with the Popular Party (PP) in 1993, also organized many private trips for Aznar's family members, according to court papers seen by EL PAÍS.

These documents — part of the ongoing investigation into a corruption scheme that has already affected dozens of PP officials at the local, regional and national levels — show entries regarding presents for party leaders. These include luxury watches valued at over 2,000 euros for former minister Ángel Acebes and current Justice chief Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. The official state gazette has no records of public tenders to award the travel services provided by Pasadena Viajes to the executive. A spokesperson for the current PP government said that all trips are now awarded via tenders, but he would not specify whether they were awarded arbitrarily under Aznar.

All the trips were taken by advisors and civil servants working at La Moncloa, and all of them were worth less than 12,000 euros, so that supposedly it was not necessary to award them through a public bidding process.

Correa, who was arrested in 2009 and released on bail in 2012 pending trial, also set up the lighting and sound at the wedding of Aznar's daughter free of charge — a service worth an estimated 36,000 euros. The former prime minister has noted that when the wedding took place in 2002, Correa was not yet under investigation for corruption.

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