World Bulletin / News Desk
Between all the defendants, prosecutors are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and more than 730 years in prison for charges including bribery, fraud, embezzlement, money-laundering, falsification of documents, perversion of justice, and influence-peddling, according to Spanish daily El Mundo.
The trial, which began Tuesday, focuses on an illegal scheme in which politicians from the ruling Popular Party allegedly received bribes in exchange for granting construction or events contracts to private companies. Prosecutors suspect that in many cases, after individual shares of the money were pocketed, the rest would be forwarded to the treasurer of the Popular Party, and put into an illegal party slush fund in Switzerland.
“The trial will determine just how much the Popular Party benefited from a portion of the money to illegally finance its activities,” an editorial in El Mundo stated.
Besides accusing the party’s former treasurers of criminal activities, the prosecution is actually charging the Popular Party itself with civil charges and a fine.
This part of the trial is investigating the first era of the ring, which allegedly came at the peak of Spain’s economic boom, between 1999 and 2005. It also lead to the explosion of Spain’s huge housing and construction bubble after the global financial crisis hit, which left Spain’s economy in tatters.
The case, which has been public knowledge since the first arrests in 2009, has dogged acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his party.
Corruption is one of the prime reasons why two new political parties, Podemos and Ciudadanos, have skyrocketed in the Spanish polls in recent years. It is also one of the main reasons why former Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez refused to end over nine months of political deadlock and support a government led by Rajoy and the Popular Party.
“If you continue to be prime minister, the cost for our democracy ... will be enormous, because the prime minister, Mr. Rajoy, has to be a decent person and you are not," Sanchez told Rajoy in reference to corruption in a televised debate before last December’s general elections.