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THE PP'S HIDDEN FINANCES

PP: ex-treasurer cannot back up new “lies”

Conservative lawmakers divided over potential for Bárcenas’ revelations to sink ruling party

The Popular Party (PP) leadership believes former party treasurer Luis Bárcenas has nothing to back up his latest revelations concerning the illegal financing of the party published over the weekend.

“I can assure you that of those things said [by Bárcenas in the media], the lies are not documented,” PP secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal told reporters at the party’s Madrid headquarters after a meeting with leaders on Monday morning. “It’s as clear as that.”

The remarks from the PP number two constitute the first official political reaction to new revelations by Bárcenas published in El Mundo newspaper on Sunday that the PP has been illegally financing itself for at least the last 20 years, receiving cash donations from constructions firms and other businesses in exchange for contracts from PP-run administrations. The former PP moneyman, who gave the interview before he was imprisoned a week and a half ago, said the release of all the documents he possesses would be enough to “bring down the government.”

It was the first time he has publicly confirmed the revelations published in EL PAÍS that he had run a parallel accounting system for the PP.

Cospedal added that Bárcenas’ specific accusation regarding the payment of a commission in exchange for a municipal contract in Castilla-La Mancha, where she is regional premier, was “absolutely false.” “The best thing is transparency. To deduce from the signature on a contract that there is a commission is absurd. It is absolutely false,” she said.

He says he his papers that could bring down the government. Well, either get them out or stop bluffing”

She also denied the PP had pressured Bárcenas into publicly refuting having compiled the ledgers showing a parallel accounting system, as published in EL PAÍS on January 31.

The secretary general of the governing party also launched a message to try to calm nervous PP members worried about what Bárcenas may have up his sleeve. “The PP has a clear, transparent accounting system that the whole of Spain knows, always audited by Court of Accounts and always approved. We are very calm. It has never had a stain of illegality about it.”

PP leaders are in two camps over the Bárcenas case. On the one hand are those who believe he has the documents to back up what he is saying; on the other are those who think he doesn’t. But what they all now agree on is that their former party treasurer has turned blackmailer. “It is clearly a threat,” said one PP official. “He says he has papers that could bring down the government. Well, either get them out or stop bluffing.”

Following the publication of the new allegations on Sunday, private prosecutors in the case against Bárcenas have announced that they will ask the judge investigating the case, Pablo Ruz, to call Bárcenas and his wife, Rosalía Iglesias, into court to respond.

Meanwhile, Bárcenas’ lawyers, Miguel Bajo and Alfonso García Trallero, on Monday told EL PAÍS that they would be giving up the defense of their client in the wake of the remarks. They allege there have been differences over the strategy in the case that have resulted in a loss of confidence on their client’s part over the direction of the defense.