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article imageSpanish PM Rajoy denies secret payment scheme by ruling party

By Anne Sewell     Jan 31, 2013 in Politics
Madrid - The ruling Partido Popular and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have denied that the party made payments from business donors to the PM and other party leaders, as a "slush fund" scandal emerges.
Spanish newspaper, El Pais, has published images of excepts from around two decades' worth of handwritten accounts of donations, said to be maintained by the Partido Popular's treasurers.
However, according to Rajoy, the party “has no knowledge of the handwritten notes that were published and of their content, and it cannot be recognized.” But the newspaper said that these handwritten notes amounted to a parallel unofficial bookkeeping system.
The statement continued, "Given the information published today by El Pais, the Popular Party insists that its remuneration of top Popular Party officials and staff has always respected the law and its tax obligations."
"The People's Party has no knowledge of the handwritten notes that were published and of their content, and it cannot be recognized, in any case, as this political party's books."
Maria Dolores de Cospedal, a party representative told a news conference, "We have only one set of books and they are clean ... We have absolutely nothing to hide."
However, despite all the denials, El Pais published photographs on Thursday (shown at the end of this article) of what are said to be ledgers kept by former treasurers, Álvaro Lapuerta and Luis Bárcenas, between the years 1990 and 2009.
Among the payments shown are 11 years of payments to Rajoy of 25,200 euros (21,655 UKP) a year.
Reportedly the party has now ordered an external audit of its accounts.
The latest scandal together with widening corruption coming to light in the country has hit Rajoy's popularity, as he in the meantime struggles with a deep recession and imposes more and more austerity measures on the country's already struggling public.
A source from the party, who requests not to be named, has said that these allegations raise some very serious ethical questions about the operations of the Partido Popular, especially as many of them occurred during the building boom in Spain, where politicians granted large numbers of development contracts.
"It looks like bribes, the nature of the document is very incriminating, if it's true," the source said.
There has been a ongoing judicial investigation into Luis Bárcenas, which revealed that he had a Swiss bank account and that apparently at once point the account held as much as 22 million euros. It was thought that this money may have involved kickbacks and illegal payments to party officials from builders and other related businesses who had won government contracts.
However, according to his lawyer, the money is from legitimate businesses and Bárcenas has since declared taxes on the income.
José Antonio Monago, president of the Extremadura region, told reporters at a news conference regarding his region's accounts, "This does not help to calm down the difficult moments that we are going through, economically, politically and the climate on the street. This is a time for maximum transparency."
Metroscopia has run a poll recently that shows that 96% of Spaniards believe corruption is widespread in politics in Spain, particularly with the ongoing judicial investigation into alleged embezzlement of public funds by King Juan Carlos' son-in-law, among many other incidents.
The latest news will certainly not help to improve the opinion of Spaniards. According to the BBC, as of Thursday morning, the hash tags #lospapelesdebarcenas (the Bárcenas papers) and #RajoyDimision (Rajoy resign) were among the top terms trending on Twitter amongst Spanish users.
Ledger showing alleged slush fund payments made by Álvaro Lapuerta and Luis Bárcenas  between 1990...
Ledger showing alleged slush fund payments made by Álvaro Lapuerta and Luis Bárcenas, between 1990 y 2009
El Pais - fair use
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