Spain: PM, Party Accused of Illegal Payments
Spain’s conservative ruling Popular Party (PP) faces allegations of 19 years of secretive – and potentially illegal -- payments to party leaders.
According to a report in El Pais, a ledger attributed to PP’s ex-treasurer, Luis Barcenas, shows payments to members of the PP as well as other irregularities, including donations that exceed legal limits.
The validity of these claims has not been ascertained: the ledger itself has not been verified as being Barcenas’s, nor does it alone prove any wrongdoing. Also, regulations concerning fundraising, financing, and campaigning changed over the time span of the documents, which cover the years between 1990 and 2009.
Barcenas, the alleged author of the ledger, is embroiled in another financial scandal -- his Swiss bank account, which reportedly held more that $29 million, is under investigation for connection to a bribery scandal, according to CNN.
An Embattled PM
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose name appears in the copies of the ledger posted by El Pais, is alleged to have received payments of over $34,000 per year, over the course of the 19 years, according to the BBC.
Rajoy, who was asked to step down by opposition parties following the publication of the story, denied the allegations in a nationally televised speech on February 2, according to the BBC. “Never -- I repeat never -- have I received nor distributed cash payments under the table in this party or anywhere else," Rajoy said.
The editor of El Pais surrendered the original documents, alleged to be Barcenas’s ledger, to the Judicial Police, for review by the anti-corruption prosecutor, according to El Pais. The editor relinquished the documents after ensuring that it would not put the identity of the source at risk “under any circumstances.” The anti-corruption prosecutor also requested 13 years worth of PP tax documents from the Treasury, El Pais reported. Tax documents, donations, contributions, and payments associated with PP are to be investigated for potential irregularities.
The allegations against Popular Party and PM Rajoy come amidst a turbulent, trying time for the government. Unemployment, reported at 26 percent, and tough austerity measures implemented by the PP make Rajoy’s government the target of many people’s anger. These latest accusations have further damaged the fragile Spanish economy, with stocks falling and the interest rate on 10-year Spanish bonds reaching a year-long high of 5.45% on Monday, the Guardian reported.