THE chief of a Spanish anti-corruption group is to stand trial for extortion.
Miguel Bernad, founder of Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), and Luis Pineda, who set up Ausbanc, a legal support service for bank clients, are also accused of fraud and membership of a criminal organisation, according to a National Court statement.
They are suspected of demanding large sums of money from companies, institutions and individuals in exchange for withdrawing criminal cases they had lodged against them.
Manos Limpias filed hundreds of lawsuits after being created by Bernad, a prominent figure within the Spanish far right.
They include the indictment of judge Baltasar Garzon, who investigated crimes against humanity by the Franco regime, and accusing Spanish King Felipe VI’s younger sister Princess Cristina of tax evasion in a corruption scandal surrounding her husband’s business practices.
During the high-profile trial, the defence team claimed Manos Limpias had requested a bribe be paid to drop the allegations, but her lawyers refused.
She was in 2016 cleared of all charges, but partner Inaki Urdangarin was convicted of diverting public funds for his own gain via the non-profit Noos Institute and was sentenced to five years and ten months behind bars.
Virgina Lopez, the lawyer representing Manos Limpias in the trial, and seven other people connected to the case have also been accused of extortion in the alleged plot.
Prosecutors have reportedly requested a 118-year jail sentence for Pineda, seen as the ringleader, more than 24 years for Bernad and 12 years for Lopez.