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Oct 4, 4:34 AM EDT

Spain: Major Popular Party-related corruption trial begins

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MADRID (AP) -- A trial has begun for nearly 40 people who allegedly took part in a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme in conjunction with the acting ruling Popular Party in what is considered one of the biggest corruption scandals in Spain in recent years.

The so-called Gurtel case comes as party leader and acting premier Mariano Rajoy struggles to form a new government and end a nine-month political impasse following two inconclusive elections.

The accused include former party treasurers, mid-ranking officials as well as business representatives.

Longtime party treasurer Luis Barcenas told investigators there was always a scheme of illegal contributions and donations to the party and that top officials were aware of it. Rajoy and the party deny his claims.

The trial beginning Tuesday concerns the scheme's activities between 1999 and 2005.

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