Former Popular Party (PP) treasurer Luis Bárcenas acknowledged before the High Court on Monday that at one time he had up to 38 million euros in his accounts in Switzerland – almost double what Swiss authorities had originally told Spanish judicial investigators.
Bárcenas, who has been at the center of a political storm brewing around Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s party, also admitted that he took out a sworn statement before a notary on December 14 to declare that he never received any money from contributions made by PP donors.
Judge Pablo Ruz, who is investigating the Gürtel corruption network connected to the PP, ordered Bárcenas to turn over his passport, prohibit him from leaving the country and report to the court every 15 days. His “wealth abroad is quite substantial” and he is considered to be a flight risk, anticorruption prosecutors told the judge.
Bárcenas testified for three hours, explaining that the money he stashed abroad came from stock market earnings, besides real estate and art sales.
From between 1999 and 2007, the PP received 23.7 million euros in anonymous donations and nine million euros in registered contributions, Bárcenas said, adding that the funds were overseen and monitored by the Court of Auditors. He made no mention of party officials who may have received money directly from these cash contributions. Up until 2007, political parties in Spain were allowed to receive anonymous donations.
Bárcenas said the money came from stocks, plus real estate and art sales
Balance sheets published by EL PAÍS on January 31 show that the former treasurer kept track of bonus payments made to leading party officials, including Rajoy, for nearly 20 years. The prime minister, who has denied the allegations, appears to have received more than 320,000 euros during this period.
Explaining that the money he has abroad was made from investments around the world, Bárcenas denied on more than one occasion that his Swiss fortune was linked to the ruling party. He agreed to allow the High Court to send a rogatory commission to Switzerland to investigate the origins of those funds. At the same time, his lawyers were waiting for bank statements from Switzerland to turn them over to the court.
Judicial sources said that Bárcenas gave the judge and anticorruption prosecutors additional documents, but did not reveal their contents.
Dozens of journalists and onlookers waited for the embattled Bárcenas to arrive at High Court early Monday. Amid the barrage of television cameras, he told reporters that he was “absolutely convinced” that he will prove his innocence and was ready to testify. Also present were some two dozen lawyers, the majority of them representing clients also implicated in the Gürtel case.
Since 2009, Bárcenas has been a target of the Gürtel contracts-for-bribes scheme that took place in local PP governments in the Valencia and Madrid regions. In 2011, the former senator for Cantabria was able to convince the Madrid regional High Court to drop the inquiry against him. But anticorruption prosecutors appealed the decision to the national High Court and the investigation against him continues.