A six-year probe into Spain's biggest graft scandal has resulted in a judge ordering trial for 40 people, including former Popular Party treasurers. It involved public works contracts in and around Madrid and Valencia.
Spanish High Court judge Pablo Ruz on Thursday imposed court bonds worth a total of 449 million euros ($500 million) on 36 of the 40 suspects, who also include former mayors and businessmen linked to the ruling Popular Party (PP).
No dates for the trials have yet been set for the 40 who face charges for the alleged bribes for contracts scene allegedly carried out between 1999 and 2005.
The Popular Party's former Treasurer Luis Barcenas faces the highest court bond of 88 million euros, while the alleged scheme mastermind, businessman Francisco Correa, was told by the judge to lodge a 60-million-euro bond.
Prosecutors have demanded lengthy prison terms for both. Barcenas is alleged to have diverted donations from builders and other business leaders into the pockets of PP leaders.
Embarrassment ahead of election
The alleged kickbacks scheme has become a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (pictured above) whose conservative Popular Party faces a general election late this year.
Spain's new anti-establishment party Podemos is poised to make big gains on a mandate to tackle corruption.
Former Health Minister Ana Amato resigned last November, saying at the time she had had no knowledge of the offending.
Her ex-husband, a former PP mayor in the upscale Madrid suburb of Pozuello de Alarcon, faces charges of receiving money and gifts for public works contracts.
The day after Amato resigned, Rajoy introduced two anti-corruption laws to parliament.
Beyond 2005, investigators are still looking into other crimes that allegedly took place between 2006 and 2009 as part of the case.
Each day, 95 lose their homes
Meanwhile, Spain's national statistics institute reported on Thursday that on average 95 families lost their homes per day because of excessive debt.
Spain's real estate bubble burst in 2008, resulting in forced expulsions.
Nearly 35,000 homes were forcibly acquired by creditors last year, a rise of 7.4 percent on 2013, according to the statistics office. Forced seizures of holiday homes, bureaus and farms pushed that total up to 119,442, it added.
Rajoy's government argued that Spain has overcome the crisis. Opposition parties point to persistently high unemployment.
ipj/sms (AFP, dpa)