Police rushed to the Popular Party (PP) national headquarters on Friday afternoon after Luis Bárcenas filed a criminal complaint over stolen computers setting off considerable confusion throughout the day and raising the stakes even higher in a legal battle between the party’s embattled former treasurer and PP officials whom he worked for 30 years.
What was to be an inspection by a scientific police brigade to dust for fingerprints and take other evidence where the alleged robbery occurred was immediately canceled when Madrid’s police commissioner stepped in and stopped the investigation, sources said.
This perplexing situation unfolded over the course of several hours after Bárcenas filed a complaint against the PP’s chief counsel, Alberto Durán, for allegedly breaking into his office and stealing his laptops. It was the latest round in an ongoing public battle between the man who handled the party’s finances over the past two decades and top PP officials who are trying to distance themselves from balance sheets he purportedly kept that recorded bonuses paid out to the party hierarchy from a slush fund.
Bárcenas has filed a civil lawsuit against the PP for firing him from his post as political consultant without just cause on January 31, the day EL PAÍS published the handwritten ledgers. The PP, meanwhile, maintains that Bárcenas has not worked for the party since 2010, when he stepped down as party treasurer after being officially targeted as a probable defendant in the massive Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts inquiry involving certain local PP governments and a network of corrupt businessmen.
Since then, Bárcenas made more headlines when it was discovered that he had 22 million euros – 38 million according to his acknowledgement before the High Court – in Swiss bank accounts. A judge has confiscated his passport and ordered him to report every 15 days as the investigation continues.
But Friday’s incident has only widened the rift between the disgruntled former treasurer and his one-time employer. About 1pm, Bárcenas walked into the police station in the Salamanca district, which he lives, to file a complaint against Durán for breaking the lock to his office at party headquarters on Génova street on February 18 and taking his personal computers so that they could be evaluated by technicians. What subsequently occurred afterwards is still unclear. According to sources, the Salamanca commander contacted his counterpart at the Chamberí district, where the PP headquarters are located, so that they could hand a Durán a citation so that he could come to Salamanca and give a statement, according to different police and PP sources.
Durán came downstairs and spoke to the officers in a small room where vending machines are located
About 30 minutes after Bárcenas lodged his complaint, the Chamberí station contacted the scientific police brigade to go PP headquarters to conduct an on-site inspection, including dusting for fingerprints and collecting any DNA evidence to determine who was responsible for the break-in, police sources said.
After they arrived, three officers from that brigade were told by the party’s security team that they would have to wait until PP officials were notified to see if they could proceed with the investigation. While they were waiting, an officer from the Chamberí station arrived with the subpoena for Durán. According to party sources, he was allowed to go up to the sixth floor where the party officials have their offices while the brigade team waited at the entrance of the PP headquarters.
Sometime later, Durán came downstairs and was invited to speak with the three waiting officers in a small room where vending machines are located. The brigade officers explained to him why they were there: to take fingerprints from Bárcenas’ office. But Durán told them that the former treasurer didn’t have an office, except for a space in the Andalusia conference room that he had been using. He then explained that he had sent Bárcenas several emails advising him to come and pick up his personal effects or otherwise they were going to be put in another room for safekeeping, but he never answered Durán.
The lawyer said that he was willing to go down to the Salamanca district station to give a statement.
Meanwhile, according to police sources, the Madrid provincial police commissioner ordered the technical police not to conduct the inspection because it wasn’t necessary.
It is not clear who ordered the scientific brigade to go to the PP in the first place. The Interior Ministry has opened an internal inquiry into the matter.