Gürtel corruption case

Gürtel mastermind to return €22m Swiss fortune in bid to reduce sentence

Francisco Correa, head of an extensive bribes-for-contracts scheme in Spain, faces years of trials

The mastermind behind Gürtel, a corrupt business network that operated across six Spanish regions between 1999 and 2005, is ready to return around €22 million stashed in Swiss bank accounts, according to legal sources familiar with the situation.

Francisco Correa, head of the Gürtel network.
Francisco Correa, head of the Gürtel network.

Francisco Correa has already authorized the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s central high court, to transfer €2.2 million. This court is currently trying him for crimes ranging from embezzlement to bribery of public officials.

Correa has also authorized a Valencia court to repatriate €272,000 after judges there recently sentenced him to 13 years in prison in a regional offshoot of Gürtel.

Correa will be standing trial on and off for the next four years at the very least

Correa still has at least six more trials to go as the sprawling Gürtel case finally reaches the courts after a five-year investigation. With nearly 200 official suspects, it became the largest pre-trial probe in modern Spanish history and was broken up into sections to facilitate the investigation. The main trial began on October 4 at the Audiencia Nacional, with 37 people on the dock.

The Gürtel network was allegedly run by Correa (whose surname translates as belt, or Gürtel in German), a businessman who cultivated relationships with PP officials, offering them gifts in exchange for government contracts in public works and event organization. At the height of his power, Correa went by the nickname of Don Vito, after the character in The Godfather.

Correa’s decision to unblock his millions at Crédit Suisse means that the money can be returned as soon as the courts request it. Otherwise, these transfers would have had to wait until all the rulings against Correa become final and unappealable, a process that could take years.

Correa will be standing trial on and off for the next four years at the very least. His goal now is to secure sentence reductions by cooperating with prosecutors and returning his concealed fortune – even though €22 million may not cover the entire amount of civil liability that will be ultimately demanded of him as the convictions add up.

The Gürtel mastermind was arrested in 2009 and served nearly four years in preventive detention. Following his recent conviction in Valencia, Correa was remanded in custody after being declared a flight risk, although that sentence can still be appealed. All the ongoing cases against him make for a combined jail term of over 200 years.

English version by Susana Urra.

More information