The judge investigating the massive Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts case, which has ensnared many top officials in Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP), believes Health Minister Ana Mato “personally profited” from crimes allegedly committed by her ex-husband, Jesús Sepúlveda, the former mayor of the Madrid suburb of Pozuelo de Alarcón.
Mato has not been named an official suspect in the case, but will have to sit in the dock during the hearing as civilly liable, judicial sources have said. Alongside her will be Gema Matamoros, wife of former Majadahonda (Madrid) councilor Guillermo Ortega, who examining High Court Judge Pablo Ruz also believes may have personally benefited from alleged Gürtel crimes.
The judge has ordered them to designate an attorney to defend their interests. The PP itself also remains civilly liable in the case.
Ruz’s decision rests on the fact that the health minister “may have enjoyed or benefited from, alone or in the company of other members of the family unit,” tourism services, the payment of family events and other items to the value of €55,439.
Nevertheless, he pointed out that “the exact amount by which the participant may have profited” will be determined during the trial.
As well as trips and plane tickets, the alleged corruption network – which involved the awarding of fat contracts from PP regional and local governments to a group of prominent businessmen in exchange for kickbacks – may have paid for designer goods, children’s birthday parties and first communion celebrations for the minister and her daughter in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
Judge Ruz has now concluded the core of the Gürtel case and has decided there is sufficient evidence to try 43 people. He also declared a provisional stay on the targeting of former PP secretary general Ángel Acebes over the purchase of shares of media group Libertad Digital with money from a slush fund managed by PP ex-treasurer Luis Bárcenas. Nevertheless, Acebes remains an official suspect in the branch of the case relating to the secret ledgers kept by Bárcenas, which detailed the fund.