The ex-treasurer of the PP party, Luis Barcenas, has handed over the courts “secret accounts” detailing cash payments to senior party members of the years, in retribution for being hauled over the courts for tax evasion. He’s on trial for smuggling millions into his secret bank account in Switzerland, and seems aggrieved that his old mates haven’t pulled a few strings to get him off.
El Pais published images of excerpts of almost two decades of handwritten accounts that it said were maintained by People’s Party treasurers, showing donations from companies, mostly builders, and regular payments of thousands of euros to Rajoy and other party leaders.
“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,” the PP said in a statement.
The statement said that the party’s payments to leaders and staff were always legal and followed tax rules.
A spokeswoman from Rajoy’s office told Reuters the prime minister stood by comments he has made recently that he has not engaged in improper conduct. Last week he said the party would ask for an external audit to look over accounts.
It’s worth pointing out that these may be legal – political parties used to be allowed to receive anonymous donations and there was never any rule about paying people in cash, as long as they declared the amounts in their personal tax returns.
However, the allegations raise serious ethical questions about party operations, especially because many of them occurred during Spain’s building boom, in which politicians granted large numbers of development contracts.
The accounts published in El Pais were allegedly from two former PP treasurers. One of them is Luis Barcenas, who stepped down as party treasurer in 2009 when judges began to investigate his possible involvement in alleged illegal payments and kickbacks to party officials from builders and other businesses that won government contracts.
The ongoing judicial investigation of Barcenas has revealed recently that he had a Swiss bank account which at one point held as much as 22 million euros.
The payments would be illegal nowadays – the PP recently changed the law to make cash payments of over 2,500€ illegal.