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Thursday, January 31, 2013

An untimely scandal in the making for Rajoy?

Spain's largest daily El País this morning splashed this and other pictures on its webpage (click to enlarge):

The paper claims it has seen hand-written accounting books held by Álvaro Lapuerta and Luis Bárcenas, who served as treasurers of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Partido Popular (PP) between 1990 and 2009.

These books register donations made to the party by Spanish businesspeople. But most importantly, they seem to show that Rajoy himself and other senior members of PP were handed out sobresueldos (extra pay, bonuses) which were allegedly distributed in envelopes with cash - and therefore completely tax-free. According to the paper, Rajoy received sobresueldos regularly between 1997 and 2008.
Such allegations had already emerged earlier this year, and an internal investigation is currently under way. However, the documents published today could be the first concrete evidence of what may, if confirmed, trigger a big scandal in Spanish politics. The names in the books include not just Rajoy, but also, for example, Rodrigo Rato (former Finance Minister, who recently also appeared in court for the Bankia case).

The Secretary General of PP, María Dolores de Cospedal (whose name is also in the secret books) has just held a press conference from the party's headquarters in Madrid's Calle de Génova - perhaps to convey the message that this is a party, not a government issue. The gist of her declarations was: the documents are false, and we will take the necessary legal action to prove it.

Rajoy is not planning to speak to journalists for now. His first public appearance will therefore be on Monday, when a joint presser with Angela Merkel is scheduled. For the moment, a bit of background info could be useful for those who do not follow Spanish politics on a daily basis:
  • Luis Bárcenas served as PP treasurer until July 2009.
  • It emerged recently that he had up to €22 million deposited in various Swiss accounts. Reports in the Spanish press suggest that the money was moved from those accounts in 2009 (although to where exactly is still unclear), when Bárcenas was involved in another corruption scandal, the so-called Gürtel case.
  • Bárcenas himself has now told Spanish prosecutors that he brought almost €11 million of that money back to Spain, through the 'tax amnesty' introduced by Rajoy's government. The opposition Socialist Party has obviously suggested that the amnesty was made precisely to cover Bárcenas and others
Very sensitive stuff. And rather untimely, given that Rajoy is about to meet his EU counterparts for key negotiations on the next long-term EU budget. The quicker the investigation, the better for the Spanish government and Spain as a whole.  


jon livesey said...

"Rajoy is not planning to speak to journalists for now."

I don't believe he could get away with that in any of the Anglo-Saxon countries.

They are not 100% clean, but an aggressive investigative press helps a lot.

Jesper said...

A blogger has done some more digging:

Rollo said...

Well qualified to be a senior figure in the EU; I expect he will be a commissioner soon.

christina speight said...

I'd need more persuasion than that to become PM of a bankrupt country using the EURO!