Bárcenas and second ex-PP treasurer control Argentinean export empire
Ángel Sanchís was also involved in high-profile corruption case in the 1980s
It has emerged that the former treasurer of the governing Popular Party, Luis Bárcenas, and his wife, Rosalía Iglesias, have been business partners with Ángel Sanchís, party treasurer until 1988, for more than 20 years.
Although Bárcenas and Iglesias worked for different companies, both were linked through shareholdings. Sanchís, a PP heavyweight who wielded considerable power in the era of veteran politician Manuel Fraga, was implicated for illegal political financing in the so-called Naseiro case (named after another former PP treasurer, Rosendo Naseiro). Naseiro and Sanchís, who introduced Bárcenas to the finances of the PP, were cleared in 1990 on a purely procedural basis.
Bárcenas informed the Swiss bank in which he once held 22 million euros of undeclared funds — which is now the focus of an investigation into his tenure as PP treasurer — that this money was connected to stock in a massive agricultural holding in Salta province, Argentina, of 30,000 hectares (three times the area of Barcelona).
The holding is registered to Sanchís and three of his sons. It is a farming empire that exports citrus fruits to the EU under the company name La Moraleja, which is a wealthy neighborhood of Madrid. According to Argentinean media sources, this multi-million interest is one of the largest producers of lemons in the country, and a global powerhouse in the sector.
In 1997, a year after the PP came to power, the government’s Official Credit Institute extended a loan of 18 million euros to Bárcenas’ holdings in Argentina. The circumstances in which the money was returned to the state lending agency were plagued by controversy.
Bárcenas did not clarify with the Swiss bank if his involvement in La Moraleja is direct or through his wife, who was a partner in another of Sanchís’s firms until at least 2002. Hidronorte, according to the Mercantile Register, has been liquidated but investigators suspect it may have been absorbed into another company or sold to third parties. The relationship between Iglesias, who holds 8,000 Hidronorte shares, and Sanchís was uncovered by a Madrid-based private detective on behalf of a Miami law firm looking for information about a possible bank loan to Sanchís for his Argentinean interests.
Among shareholders in Hidronorte are other ranking PP officials such as Joaquín Xiso, who held the post of vice president of the delegation for Chinese relations at the European parliament between 1994 and 1997.
In her declaration before investigating Judge Antonio Pedreira, after the discovery of a bank account containing more than a million euros of undeclared funds, Rosalía Iglesias said that her husband managed all of the family’s business affairs.
Bárcenas maintains that the fortune uncovered in a Swiss vault are the fruits of his activities in the real estate market and the purchase and sale of works of art prior to the era in which the alleged ringleader of the Gürtel corruption network, Francisco Correa, set out his stall in the Génova street headquarters of the Popular Party, where contracts for public works were supposedly paid for.
Bárcenas has also publicly defended his wife against all allegations of impropriety, stating that although her name appears on some of the paperwork she never actively participated in any business transactions. Rosalía Iglesias remains an official suspect in the High Court investigation.