Rajoy moves to defuse fallout from party's 'shady' bonuses


The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has presented a series of anti-corruption measures as he desperately seeks to defuse the crisis sparked by a scandal related to the finances of his Partido Popular (PP).

Mr Rajoy told the national executive committee of the PP yesterday that the party would carry out an internal investigation into its financial activities stretching back to its founding in 1989, to then be reviewed by an external audit. In addition, he will propose a multi-party pact against corruption.

These measures follow last week’s revelation that a former PP treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, who is being investigated for corruption and stepped down in 2009, had kept a Swiss bank account containing up to €22 million.

Under-the-counter payments

Several newspapers have since reported that the PP had paid its senior politicians under-the-counter bonuses for years, a practice that allegedly ended only relatively recently.

Yesterday Jorge Trías, a congressional deputy for the party between 1996 and 2000, heaped further pressure on the government by publishing an article in El País newspaper in which he stated that monthly bonuses of up to €10,000 were paid in cash from a slush fund.

In the article Mr Trías called for several of the PP’s leading figures of the past two decades to clarify the party’s finances, including Mr Rajoy and party deputy leader María Dolores de Cospedal.

“The first one who owes us an explanation is the leader of the PP, Mariano Rajoy,” he wrote. “It is possible that [Rajoy and Cospedal] ended these bad practices; it’s possible, but they should also explain if, at the start of their respective tenures, they received any amount from this shady source.”

In addition, Mr Bárcenas’s lawyer has claimed the former treasurer took advantage of an amnesty for tax dodgers introduced last year by the PP, declaring €10 million. The tax authority denied that Mr Bárcenas had used the amnesty.

PP defiant

Despite the measures unveiled yesterday, the PP remained defiant, with Ms Cospedal insisting that the only verifiable fact so far was the money that the ex-treasurer had held in a Swiss account. “I have never seen shady finances in the PP,” she told Cadena Ser radio. “Everybody categorically denies that this happened.”

Opposition parties have greeted the party’s response to the crisis with scepticism. The main opposition Socialists said congress, not the PP, should investigate.

“We’re looking at what could be the most serious corruption case in the history of Spain’s democratic era,” said Socialist spokeswoman Soraya Rodríguez.