Ex-treasurer of Spain's PP had €22m in Swiss bank

Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 00:00

The beleaguered government of Mariano Rajoy has been embarrassed by revelations that its party’s former treasurer had a bank account in Switzerland containing up to €22 million.

Luis Bárcenas held the treasury post in the conservative Partido Popular (PP) from 2008 until 2009, when he resigned because of an investigation into his part in a massive fraud network. He stepped down from the party in 2010. The inquiry into that case continues and information a Spanish judge has requested from Swiss authorities shows details of an account held under the politician’s name which coincides with the time he was managing the PP’s finances.

The data shows Mr Bárcenas kept an average of €15 million in the account, which was open between 2005 and 2009. In 2007 it contained just over €22 million.

The PP’s deputy leader, María Dolores de Cospedal, hinted yesterday at the concern within the party’s leadership. “Of course this will cause outrage, how can it not? I’m outraged by it,” she said. However, she sought to distant the government from Mr Bárcenas by highlighting that he was no longer in the PP.

Tax evasion

In a further revelation about Mr Bárcenas’s finances, his lawyer, Alfonso Trallero, yesterday said he had declared €10 million last year as part of a controversial tax amnesty introduced by the Rajoy government. The amnesty meant tax evaders could declare hidden assets and pay only a 10 per cent fine. PP spokesman Carlos Floriano said more details need to emerge to ensure justice is done.

“It’s very important that all the doubts about the wealth and the money someone might have are cleared up,” he said in a radio interview yesterday. “We need to know where it came from and how it was raised. If not, the stain taints us all.”

This case comes amid a flurry of corruption scandals in Spain. This week, Ignacio González, the PP’s head of the Madrid local government, has come under scrutiny after an investigation into his purchase of a luxury apartment in Marbella. Spain’s anti-corruption office is also preparing to take to court 13 people accused of involvement in a kickbacks network on the Mediterranean coast linked to the PP.

Meanwhile, the royal family has also been hurt by corruption allegations. King Juan Carlos’s son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, faces trial for embezzling millions from a charity that he used to head.

ABC newspaper recently reported that more than 300 Spanish politicians were implicated in corruption scandals, with most of the main political parties affected. Mediterranean regions such as Valencia and the Balearic Islands are the worst offenders. Spain is 30th on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, alongside Botswana.

Of the recent avalanche of corruption cases, the Bárcenas affair is potentially the most damaging for the PP and the central government, because it directly implicates the party’s national leadership.