FEBRUARY 20, 2009

A cloud over Valencia

Grands Prix are often closely linked to one individual and thus the news that Francisco Camps, the President of the Generalitat Valenciana, has been implicated in a corruption scandal needs to be taken seriously in F1 circles. Camps has been one of the major forces behind the revival of the city of Valencia, the America's Cup competition and the Grand Prix.

The accusations against Camps come from Judge Baltasar Garzon, who claims that Camps received $40,000 worth of suits from Alvaro Perez, an event promoter, in order for him to gain lucrative contracts to stage special events. Perez was arrested earlier this week. Garzon claims that his company Orange Market made at least $6m in fees for organising events for the regional government.

Camps's Partido Popular has gone onto the attack, saying that the anti-corruption prosecutor is politically-motivated. He, however, has now handed over his investigations to other investigators. Camps says he is innocent and will take legal action against anyone making such claims.

Garzon first rose to prominence in Spain when he investigated the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberacion (GAL), which were established by the Spanish government in the 1980s to combat the Basque spearatists belonging to ETA. It was later proven that these were financed by officials within the Spanish Interior Ministry and former Interior Minister Jose Barrionuevo was sent to jail. He also went after ETA itself and won a reputation for being incorruptible and highly principled. He gained international recognition when he issued a warrant for the arrest of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet over his alleged involvement in the torture and deaths of Spanish citizens during the coup d'etat in Chile in 1973. Garzon also filed charges against Argentine military officers involved in the deaths of Spanish citizens in the 1970s and 1980s and Adolfo Scilingo was eventually convicted and sent to prison. In 2003 he filed an indictment against 35 men, including Osama Bin Laden, for their alleged membership of a terrorist group. Twnety-four of them were tried and 18 found guilty and senetenced to long prison terms.

Most recently he has been in the news for seeking prosecutions against those involved in repression during the Franco regime 70 years ago, despite a 1977 amnesty for all concerned.

It remains to be seen what will happen to Camps, but the removal of any high profile supporter of an F1 race is always a danger for the future.

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