Party denies newspaper claims over accounts

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Spain’s ruling People’s Party has denied that prime minister Mariano Rajoy and other leaders received payments from a slush fund, after a newspaper published what it said were secret party accounts.

El Pais published images of excerpts of almost two decades of handwritten accounts that it said were maintained by People’s Party treasurers. The newspaper said the accounts showed 11 years of payments to Mr Rajoy of €25,200 (£21,560) a year.

The accounts – which the newspaper said amounted to a parallel unofficial bookkeeping system – indicate donations from companies, mostly builders, and regular payments of thousands of euros to a number of party leaders.

The report is the latest twist in a scandal that has damaged the credibility of Mr Rajoy, 57, as he battles a deep recession in Spain, which also has one of Europe’s highest unemployment levels.

“The People’s Party only has one set of accounts and it is clean, transparent and submitted to the official accounting authority,” PP secretary general Maria Dolores de Cospedal said yesterday. “We have absolutely nothing to hide.”

Ms Cospedal was one of many top party officials, along with Rodrigo Rato, a former economy minister and International Monetary Fund chief, who was named by El Pais as receiving secret payments.

High Court Judge Pablo Ruz, who is investigating a four-year-old corruption case involving the PP, has asked prosecutors to look into the new allegations and could open another line of investigation.

The party has ordered an external audit of its accounts.

A recent poll by Metroscopia showed that 96 per cent of Spaniards believe corruption is widespread in politics in Spain.