Spain’s prime minister denies secret payments

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SPANISH prime minister Mariano Rajoy has described allegations that he and others benefited from secret party accounts as “false”.

Rajoy said he had never received any underhand payments, and would publish his income and financial statements.

El Pais newspaper published photographs of ledgers showing payments to Popular Party figures last Thursday in a revelation that has shocked Spain.

It said Rajoy had collected ¤25,200 (£22,000) a year between 1997 and 2008.

Rajoy and his party were elected by a landslide in November 2011 on a promise to reduce the high public deficit.

Addressing the Popular Party national executive meeting in an extraordinary session to discuss the El Pais allegations in Madrid yesterday, Rajoy said: “I need only two words: it’s false.”

He continued: “I have never received nor distributed undeclared money,” adding he would publish on the party’s website all his tax declarations to clear up the scandal.

El Pais said the photographs it published were of ledgers kept by former treasurers Luis Barcenas and Alvaro Lapuerta between 1990 and 2009.

Money was allegedly paid by outside firms via Barcenas, who stepped down in 2009 and is currently under investigation for money-laundering.

Investigators recently revealed that Barcenas held a Swiss bank account which at one point held as much as ¤22 million (£19m).

Until 2007, Spanish political parties were allowed to receive anonymous donations.

Spaniards have been asked to accept painful austerity measures as the government battles to avoid an international bailout.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate has reached a record 26 per cent.

The allegations raise ethical questions about the Popular Party’s dealings during the period of Spain’s building boom, when politicians granted large numbers of development contracts.

The party has denied making any “systematic payment to certain people of money other than their monthly wages”.

Spain’s state attorney has said there is sufficient cause to investigate fresh allegations of irregular financing of the Popular Party and that, if necessary, prime minister Rajoy would be called in for questioning.

The lists published by El Pais include the names of former ministers Angel Acebes, Javier Arenas and Francisco Alvarez Cascos.

The paper said the documents showed that, as of 1997, Rajoy received some ¤25,000 each year.

The paper said each of the party members listed and the businesses named denied receiving or making the payments shown.

Many of the payments occurred during Spain’s boom years of the late 1990s when the Popular Party was in power and the construction industry made the country one of the most successful economies in the European Union.

The corruption scandal is the latest to rock Spain, with dozens of other cases involving bankers, politicians, town councillors and even the royal family.