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Francisco Granados standing behind former Madrid premier Esperanza Aguirre.

In the biggest anti-corruption sweep in the country’s history, dozens of people across the whole of Spain were arrested on Monday, many of them senior politicians from the ruling Partido Popular. According to the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, following the award of government contracts, they allegedly diverted at least €250 million of public money received from corrupt business men into their own pockets.

The most senior official taken into custody by the Guardia Civil was Francisco Granados, a former secretary-general of the governing Popular Party, who resigned in February following reports in the daily newspaper El Mundo that he had accumulated almost two million dollars in a Swiss bank account.

The High Court judge Eloy Velasco has been investigating the origin of his fortune for a year, and suspects that it may come from illegal commissions paid by builders for fraudulent re categorizing of land and rigged construction bids while Granados was mayor of Valdemoro, a town of 72,000 residents just south of Madrid, between 1999 and 2003.

The investigation is centered mainly in town halls and regional governments in Madrid and Leon in the centre of the country and Murcia and Valencia in the east.

Two former Madrid mayors were also arrested in the swoop along with Marcos Martínez Barazón, the head of the León provincial authority. Local councilors, civil servants and several constructors are also suspected of participating in the scheme that awarded €250 million worth of public contracts in the last two years.

The mass raids targeted 51 senior politicians alleged to be part of a huge corruption network, of which the 35 arrested will now face charges of money laundering, embezzlement and influence peddling.

According to sources close to the case, dubbed Operation Púnica, the network made use of contracts aimed at bringing down electricity costs for municipalities, from which illegal commissions of two or three percent were charged.

The French firm Cofely and its affiliate in Spain were the major beneficiaries of the contracts handed out for works and public services.

Civil Guard investigators said they were now planning to take statements from the suspects, most of whom spent last Monday night in custody in the Madrid towns of Tres Cantos and Las Rozas

The probe is the latest in a string of corruption scandals that have hit Spain’s political parties, banks, football clubs and even members of the royal family.

The crackdown also resulted in 400 bank accounts being frozen and around 260 companies are also being investigated.

This new raid is only latest in series of corruption probes damaging image of Spain’s ruling party and now, with municipal and regional polls, and then a general election, scheduled for next year, Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP) fears that constant media coverage of these judicial investigations involving a number of their senior figures are inflicting damage that could harm its chances of re-election

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/45377/

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