Spanish PM implicated in slush fund allegations

Partido Popular general secretary María Dolores de Cospedal: said corrupt payment allegations are part of a strategy to bring down her party and that it will take legal action. Photograph: Paul Hanna

Partido Popular general secretary María Dolores de Cospedal: said corrupt payment allegations are part of a strategy to bring down her party and that it will take legal action. Photograph: Paul Hanna

Fri, Feb 1, 2013, 00:00

Fresh revelations about the finances of the ruling Partido Popular (PP) have heaped pressure on the Spanish government, with several senior politicians facing allegations of having received illegal payments from a slush fund, including prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

El País newspaper yesterday published details of notebooks kept by two of the PP’s former treasurers, which apparently logged unusual payments made to senior party figures between 1993 and 2008.

One of the former treasurers, Luis Bárcenas, is being investigated for his part in a fraud case that has implicated other members of the PP. The revelation earlier this month that he had held a Swiss bank account containing up to €22 million unleashed the PP payments scandal.

Named in notebooks

According to the newspaper, Mr Rajoy’s name appears in the notebooks from 1997, when he was a minister, until 2008, when he was leader of the PP in opposition. The ledgers state he received payments totalling €25,200 each year.

Also named as recipients of payments are PP deputy leader María Dolores de Cospedal and the former economy minister Rodrigo Rato, who subsequently had a spell as International Monetary Fund managing director. Other former ministers are implicated, and former prime minister José María Aznar.

The El País report also showed details of apparently massive undeclared donations made by captains of industry to the PP. Several of the cited donors were the heads of major property firms such as Sacyr Vallehermoso and OHL.

All of the above-mentioned politicians and business leaders challenged by the paper about the allegations denied they had received or given any such payments. Yesterday, Ms Cospedal robustly rejected the allegations in a press conference. She warned they were part of a strategy to bring down her party and said the PP would take legal action against those making accusations.

“In accordance with our legal advice, we are going to present lawsuits to deny insinuations of dishonourable behaviour in this party and we are not going to allow the transparency and the honour of the PP to be cast in doubt,” she said.

However, the president of Senate, Pío García Escudero, has admitted that he did receive money as claimed by the newspaper report, although he says it was a loan he later paid back.

Ms Cospedal said that his admission did “not validate” the rest of what had been published.

The party had already announced the launch of an internal investigation into its finances, to be reviewed by an auditor. But opposition groups have demanded a parliamentary investigation, and yesterday they stepped up the pressure.

‘Social alarm’

Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, leader of the main opposition Socialist party, described the situation as “critical” and warned that the scandal was causing “social alarm”.

There were also calls for Mr Rajoy, who took power in December 2011, to consider stepping down.

“If the information El País has published is confirmed, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has to resign and call immediate elections because we are facing a crisis of our democratic system,” said Cayo Lara, of the United Left coalition.

Mr Rajoy has called an emergency meeting of the PP leadership tomorrow.