Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Spain's Premier Expected to Speak on Graft Scandal

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Spain's Premier Expected to Speak on Graft Scandal

Article excerpt

According to El Pais newspaper, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other leading party members received regular payments from an undisclosed account.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to break his silence on Saturday over a report this week alleging that he and other conservative politicians had received regular payments from a previously undisclosed account run by treasurers of his Popular Party.

According to the newspaper El Pais, the payments were made to Mr. Rajoy and other leading party members from 1990 to 2008 -- when Spain's construction bubble burst -- via a slush fund administered by former party treasurers, including Luis Barcenas, whom Swiss authorities recently reported to have maintained as much as EUR 22 million, or $29 million, in Swiss bank accounts.

On Friday, El Pais reported that more than EUR 5 million of the EUR 7.5 million listed as payments to party leaders in accounting ledgers prepared by Mr. Barcenas, copies of which were published by the newspaper, may have exceeded the legal limits under the law that was in effect at the time.

Spain's attorney general, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, said late Thursday that the judiciary was considering incorporating the bookkeeping evidence into an ongoing investigation into possible kickbacks received by conservative politicians.

At the same time, some junior conservative politicians broke ranks with the party leadership on Friday, with two of them resigning in protest over the latest revelations. Eduardo Junquera said he would leave the administration of the city hall in Gijon, in northern Spain, to show his "radical rejection of the pitiful, shameful and serious facts" relating to the activities of senior members of his Popular Party.

Mr. Rajoy also faced rising demands from his parliamentary opponents on the left to provide an explanation. The Socialist opposition leader, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, repeated calls that Mr. Rajoy appear -- "Now, right now" -- before Congress to explain his role in the scandal. …

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