Attempting to ward off an explosive situation inside his Popular Party (PP) over reports of illegal cash payments being handed out to top leaders, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday ordered “profound and exhaustive” audits of his organization’s finances and donations.
The first audit will be conducted internally by party treasurer Carmen Navarro and the results will be turned over to independent auditors from a firm that has yet to be identified, Rajoy told the National Executive Committee.
The PP has been jolted by allegations that many of its leaders since the 1990s received envelopes of cash from undisclosed sources as bonuses along with their regular salaries. According to the former PP deputy, Jorge Trías Sagnier, the money was handed out by former treasurers Luis Bárcenas and Álvaro Lapuerta.
The political establishment was rocked last week when Swiss officials told a Spanish court that they had traced some 22 million euros in cash in a secret bank account to Bárcenas. The former treasurer and ex-senator, who for 18 years was part of a team that handled the PP’s finances, has been indicted in the massive Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts case on money laundering and tax evasion charges.
“We will turn every piece of paper over if we have to,” said PP secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal on Monday.
Navarro, who became treasurer in July 2010 – six months after Bárcenas officially stepped down – and is close to De Cospedal, received orders to conduct a search of the accounts of all officials, including those of the PP’s foundations, since 1990, when José María Aznar took over the party.
At the same time PP officials said that they are considering filing a host of civil lawsuits against several newspapers, a television program and Trías Sagnier, who wrote a column in EL PAÍS on Monday detailing how the money was handed out.
“The anonymous donations were anonymous when it came to the contributor,” Trías Sagnier said in a later interview with EL PAÍS. “But the parties had an obligation to register them as anonymous donations. Whether they were eventually registered that way I don’t know. But what I do know is that there were people who received great amounts of money, along with their salaries, as expenses or bonuses.”
Up until 2007, political parties could receive anonymous donations under a 1987 financing law that was in effect for 20 years. But those donations could not surpass five percent of what the parties receive from the state that is allotted in the annual budgets. Under a new financing law introduced by the Socialists, anonymous donations are now prohibited.