Two former Popular Party (PP) secretary generals admitted in court Tuesday that there was chaos in the handling of millions of euros the conservative political grouping received in combined donations and state subsidies from 1995 to 2011, judicial sources said.
Francisco Álvarez-Cascos and Javier Arenas, who both served as secretary general of the party during this period, admitted to the High Court that the accounting was difficult to control.
The two were called to testify about a secret slush fund that former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas said he managed and from which bonuses and other extra payments were allegedly secretly made to top PP officials on top of their regular salaries.
Bárcenas, who is under preventive custody as he awaits trial on tax evasion and money-laundering charges, recorded in accounting ledgers published in January by EL PAÍS that Álvarez-Cascos received 421,693 euros between 1990 and 2004, while Arenas got 234,320 euros between 1990 and 2011. Both men denied they had received bonuses but admitted there was lack of control in spending and accounting for expenditures during the years that they were in control of the party apparatus.
Never before have three members of the ruling party’s hierarchy been summoned as witnesses
Earlier in the day, Cristóbal Páez, a former PP finance manager, testified that he received 12,000 euros in two payments in 2007 and 2008 that are recorded in the ledgers kept by Bárcenas.
Appearing before High Court Judge Pablo Ruz, Páez’s declaration lends further weight to the veracity of the so-called Bárcenas papers, which allegedly show a parallel accounting system within the ruling party of illegal corporate donations and cash bonus payments to top officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and former national leader José María Aznar.
After Páez’s testimony, the judge interrogated the current head of the State Council advisory body, José Manuel Romay Beccaría. He was followed to the stand by Francisco Álvarez-Cascos, a former party treasurer, and Javier Arenas, currently the PP number three.
The disclosure of the Bárcenas papers has caused a political storm in Spain. Not even during the Naseiro investigation into illegal party financing have three members of the ruling party’s hierarchy been summoned as witnesses in such a case. María Dolores de Cospedal, the PP secretary general whose name also features in the ledgers, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday. De Cospedal declined the option of testifying at her office in Castilla-La Mancha “out of respect” for the justice system.
The authenticity of Bárcenas’ ledgers has also been confirmed by Senate speaker Pío García Escudero and PP politicians Jaime Ignacio del Burgo and Calitxo Ayesa.
Cascos served as secretary general of the PP from 1989 to 1999, and was deputy prime minister under José María Aznar from 1996 to 2000. Bárcenas’ ledgers date from 1994 onward and detail numerous alleged illegal donations from business figures, of whom the most profitable for the party was “Piñeiro,” who, according to the papers, handed over 403,000 euros during the first five years of Cascos’ tenure. An annotation from 1999 shows a donation of 126,000 euros attributed to [Pablo] “Crespo,” the supposed number two man in the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts corruption network, who has testified that the record is accurate.
Páez’s declaration lends further weight to the veracity of the so-called Bárcenas papers
Bárcenas also noted in his books a total of 421,693 euros in payments between 1990 and 2004 to “Paco A. C,” “P. A. C.,” or simply noted down as “Cascos.”
The judicial investigation has confirmed that some of the illegal donations passed through a Banco Vitoria branch located at number 13 Génova street in Madrid, next to the PP’s headquarters. These payments never exceeded 60,000 euros, the limit at which a political donation must be declared.
Also listed in Bárcenas’ papers are regular payments made to “Jaime Mayor,” “Mariano,” and “Rodrigo R.”