Corruption scandal rocks Spanish politics ahead of elections
A corruption scandal in the Canary Islands involving Socialist Party members, local businessmen, and former members of the military police has rocked the Spanish political arena three months before key regional and municipal elections.
The aim of the criminal network was to obtain better contracts in Spanish public tenders and procurements, get benefits from EU financial schemes and avoid sanctions.
PSOE sources in the Canary island spoke on Wednesday about ‘shame’, ‘pain’ and ‘outrage’ at these events. However, some sources within the PSOE doubt that the dismissal of the MEP can be enough to avoid a negative impact on the party in the regional and municipal elections of 28 May.
Borja Sémper, centre-right opposition PP (EPP) campaign spokesperson, urged the PSOE to shed full light on the case and clarify whether it is true that, according to some sources, “around 15 to 20 PSOE MEPs could be involved” in the case.
Meanwhile, the local branch of the PP in the Canary Islands announced that it would appear as a private prosecution.
The PP has also requested that Economy Minister Nadia Calviño (PSOE/S&D) appear before the Senate in her capacity as president of a foundation that allegedly approved contracts for over €2 million to people involved.
The Spanish justice investigated the ‘Mediador case’ for over a year.
The corruption case is named after the businessman Marco Antonio Navarro, who acted as a link between PSOE members at the head of the organisation and other Spanish businessmen.
On 14 February, several of those involved were arrested, among other retired Civil Guard general Francisco Espinosa Navas.
The High Court of Justice of the Canary Islands (TSJC) charged them with bribery, influence peddling, money laundering, document falsification and membership in a criminal organisation. The Guardia Civil own Internal Affairs Service had pointed to Espinosa Navas as a recipient of bribes from local business people, the Canarias 7 reported.
Juan Bernardo Fuentes Curbelo, former socialist MEP, was accused of being the plot’s ringleader.
Fuentes Curbelo demanded a first payment of €5,000 from the businessmen to initiate negotiations on their behalf.
To introduce the businessmen to the criminal network, he allegedly took advantage of his position as an MEP and organised visits to the Spanish parliament and Espinosa’s office at the Civil Guard headquarters in Madrid.
In addition, he also held meals and parties in Madrid’s luxurious restaurants and nightclubs, as well as in the Victoria hotel in the Spanish capital, where he stayed weekly to attend the sessions of the Lower House.
The expenses were paid by the businessmen, who, in these contacts, made cash payments to the Canary Islands MEP, according to those responsible for the police investigation, EFE reported.
Municipal elections will be held on 28 May in Spain, with general elections due in December.
(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)