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Rajoy to testify as witness in Gürtel corruption trial
SPAIN'S President Mariano Rajoy has been called to testify as a 'witnesss' in the ongoing Gürtel corruption racket in which bribes were paid by companies in return for lucrative public works contracts, and the cash used to fund electoral campaigns and dished out between politicians.
Numerous top-flight members of the right-wing PP party, including former economy minister and ex-chairman of the International Monetary Fund (FMI) Rodrigo Rato, plus all the PP's treasurers except the current one, have been investigated.
Ex-health minister Ana Mato was forced to resign over a year ago after it was found the Gürtel ringleader, Francisco Correa, had paid her former husband Jesús Sepúlveda for birthday parties for the couple's children, family holidays and even a Louis Vuitton bag for Mato when Sepúlveda was mayor for the PP in Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid).
Other past and present PP leaders Francisco Álvarez Cascos, Ángel Acebes, Jaime Mayor Oreja, Javier Arenas and Esperanza Aguirre are among the 300-plus witnesses called to the dock.
They began testifying yesterday (Tuesday) and will continue until Thursday, inclusive.
A majority vote among the court officials and private prosecution led to the decision for Rajoy to be one of them, although the public prosecutor Concepción Nicolás says the president's appearing in the dock is 'pointless and unnecessary' since 'nothing has changed since October' when it was decided there was no need for Rajoy to testify.
He will be asked to confirm or deny whether the PP held 'underground' accounting records, known as 'Cash Box B', but Sra Nicolás says its existence has already been 'sufficiently accredited' by 'other documentary evidence'.
And Rajoy has always denied a 'Cash Box B' existed, meaning he is likely to continue to do so even when faced with this proof.
Perjury is not considered an offence as such in Spain, meaning Rajoy would not get into trouble if he wilfully lied in the dock about the 'hidden' funds.
The PP itself has called Rajoy's requirement to give a statement 'outrageous' and 'out of turn', saying it will 'only contribute to the media circus' already surrounding the party.
The only concession Rajoy will get is that he may be allowed to testify by video conference – as was the case with Catalunya's ex-regional president Artur Mas in 2014 when he called a non-binding referendum on independence in defiance of the central government.
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