Spain ruling party vows legal action in corruption scandal
MADRID, Spain - Spain's ruling Popular Party said Monday, February 4, it would take legal action against anyone who published or leaked information implicating its executives in a case of alleged corruption that has sparked calls for the prime minister to resign.
Leading center-left newspaper El Pais on Thursday published account ledgers kept by two former treasurers of the party purportedly showing that at least a dozen senior party officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, received payments from a secret slush fund.
The report has sparked daily protests by hundreds of demonstrators outside of the right-leaning party's headquarters in Madrid as well as in other locations across the country at a time when the unemployment rate stands at a record 26 percent and the government is imposing tough spending cuts.
The leader of Spain's opposition Socialist party, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, on Sunday called on Rajoy to resign over the corruption scandal.
The Popular Party will launch lawsuits against "anyone or any group of people who have accused the Popular Party or its management structure of illegal or irregular actions", one of the party's secretaries, Carlos Floriano, told reporters.
The lawsuits will target "all those who leaked" the allegations as well as "those who published them", he added without specifying who would be cited in any legal action taken by the party.
"We cannot tolerate in any way any suggestion of illegal, irregular or reprehensible practices in the Popular Party," Floriano added.
El Pais said the slush fund used to make the illegal payments was made up of donations, mostly from construction companies.
Ledgers kept by one of the former party treasurers cited by the newspaper, Luis Barcenas, apparently showed payments including 25,200 euros ($34,000) a year to Rajoy between 1997 and 2008.
Barcenas was already under investigation in connection with a separate corruption case. Spanish media reported last month that he had millions of euros in a Swiss bank account.
He has denied that the Popular Party kept secret accounts and that Rajoy and other top party figures received under-the-table payments.
"I say it is a gross manipulation," he said Monday during an interview with the Antena 3 television station.
"There does not exist, nor has there ever existed, secret accounts," he added.
Rajoy said that case had nothing to do with the party and that it had never had foreign bank accounts.
"We must not allow Spaniards, of whom we are demanding sacrifices, to think that we do not observe the strictest ethical rigor," he said Saturday in his first public reaction to the corruption allegations.
The scandal drove Madrid share prices down more than three percent in late afternoon trading on Monday. - Rappler.com