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Two conservative ex-leaders in Madrid charged in graft case

Two conservative ex-leaders in Madrid charged in graft case
FILE PHOTO: Madrid's regional president Cristina Cifuentes announces her resignation in Madrid, Spain, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Susana Vera -
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MADRID (Reuters) – Two former leaders of Madrid’s regional government were charged on Monday with embezzlement and illegal use of funds to pay bills for their conservative People’s Party, a court document showed.

Esperanza Aguirre and Cristina Cifuentes, who held the post in 2003-2012 and 2015-2018 respectively, were accused of corruption for their role in a case uncovered in 2015, a spokesman for the national criminal court Audiencia Nacional said.

Aguirre, Cifuentes and their lawyers could not be reached for comment. A PP spokesman said the party respected judicial decisions and the presumption of innocence and declined to provide further comment.

The charges relate to a scheme under which officials are accused of awarding public contracts in exchange for illegal kickbacks, according to anti-corruption public prosecutors.

The PP – traditionally one of Spain’s two main political parties – has suffered electorally in recent years as a number of former high-profile leaders have been charged and convicted in several major corruption scandals.

Last year, former prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s government collapsed after his party was implicated in a separate corruption case.

The PP finished far behind the Socialist party in an inconclusive parliamentary election in April and has struggled to regain popularity in opinion polls.

(Reporting by Sam Edwards and Emma Pinedo, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Alison Williams)

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