Spain’s former prime minister denies knowledge of high-level spy operation

Mariano RajoySPAIN’S FORMER PRIME MINISTER, Mariano Rajoy, has denied knowledge of an alleged spy operation that prosecutors say is connected to one of the most extensive corruption scandals in Spanish political history. The alleged spy scandal relates to what is known in Spain as the Gürtel case, which centers on an extensive network of tax evasion, bribery and money laundering. The Gürtel case brought together leading business executives, criminal kingpins, and senior politicians from Rajoy’s conservative Partido Popular (PP).

In May of 2018, Spain’s highest criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, ruled that senior PP officials had enriched themselves with kickbacks and bribes, and had laundered large sums of money with assistance from the criminal underworld. The scandal effectively brought an end to the government of Prime Minister Rajoy later that year, and has virtually annihilated the once robust electoral popularity of the PP.

In 2020, another side of the Gürtel case emerged, which became known as Operation KITCHEN. This refers to an espionage effort that targeted senator Luis Bárcenas, who also served as treasurer of the PP. It was discovered that Bárcenas had in his possession bookkeeping documents that shed light on a secret system for recording illicit bribes paid to PP administrators and senior party figures. For his implication in the Gürtel case, Bárcenas was eventually given a 33-year prison sentence, which he is currently serving.

It appears that, once senior PP executives realized that Bárcenas had these documents in his possession, and that he may share them with the authorities so as to secure a lighter prison sentence for himself, they allegedly set up an espionage operation aimed at preventing Bárcenas’ documents from ending up in the hands of the authorities.

On Monday, however, Rajoy, who served as prime minister from 2011 to 2018, claimed he had no knowledge of any espionage efforts undertaken against Bárcenas. Speaking before a parliamentary committee that is investigating Operation KITCHEN, Rajoy said he had nothing to do with the spy affair. He later told reporters: “I never had any knowledge of the existence of this operation […], so I gave instructions on something I knew nothing about? I don’t know what they [the committee] were looking for”. Rajoy also told the parliamentary committee: “I really don’t care what Mr. Bárcenas [and others implicated in the Gürtel case] might have said about me”.

The investigation into Operation KITCHEN continues.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 14 December 2021 | Permalink

Spanish high court broadens illegal wiretap probe to include senior politicians

Luis BárcenasA court in Spain has begun to examine the findings of a long-running probe into an illegal network that spied on people in return for payments, which almost certainly implicates senior figures in the former governing party. The probe focuses on what is known in Spain as the Gürtel case, which is described by observers as one of the most extensive corruption scandals in Spanish political history. It centers on an extensive network of tax evasion, bribery and money laundering, which brought together leading business executives, criminal kingpins, and senior politicians from Spain’s conservative Popular Party (PP).

In May of 2018, Spain’s highest criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, ruled that senior PP officials had enriched themselves with kickbacks and bribes, and had laundered the money with assistance from the criminal underworld. The scandal effectively brought an end to the government of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy later that year, and has virtually annihilated the once robust electoral popularity of the PP.

IntelNews has followed a series of scandals linked to the Gürtel case, notably a case involving José Manuel Villarejo, a 67-year-old former police chief, who was arrested in November of 2017 for carrying out illegal wiretaps, and remains in custody. According to Spanish prosecutors, Villarejo was in charge of an illicit information-collection enterprise that violated the privacy of hundreds of unsuspecting citizens. The latter were targeted by corporate competitors and individual wealthy clients. Many of Villarejo’s targets were eventually blackmailed by the recipients of information collected by the former police chief and his network.

Now a new side of the Gürtel case is about to emerge, as the Audiencia Nacional has unsealed a probe that sheds further light into Operation KITCHEN. This refers to an espionage effort connected to the Gürtel case, which targeted Luis Bárcenas, a senator and party treasurer of Spain’s conservative Partido Popular. Bárcenas had in his possession bookkeeping documents that shed light on a secret system for recording illicit funds in possession of PP administrators and senior party figures —for which Bárcenas was eventually given a 33-year prison sentence that he is currently serving.

Once senior government executives were notified by advisors that Bárcenas had these documents, and that he may be planning to share them with the authorities in order to secure a lighter prison sentence for himself, they allegedly set up an espionage operation aimed at preventing Bárcenas’ documents from ending up in the hands of the authorities. Villarejo was allegedly in charge of the espionage operation, which is how Operation KITCHEN connects with the broader Gürtel case. The probe of Operation KITCHEN was unsealed on Monday by Audiencia Nacional Judge Manuel García Castellón. A new series of prosecutions is now expected to take place in the coming weeks, in connection to Operation KITCHEN, which will almost certainly involve leading PP figures.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 09 September 2020 | Permalink

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