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Slush fund allegations hit Spanish premier

AFP-JIJI

A corruption scandal implicating Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reignited Tuesday with the publication of an original handwritten account ledger purportedly showing illegal payments to him while he was a minister.

The document published by El Mundo newspaper fanned a scandal that has outraged Spaniards suffering amid a recession and had sparked calls for Rajoy to resign earlier this year.

His ruling Popular Party quickly repeated its denial of any illegal payments to its members, while the opposition Socialists renewed their call for Rajoy to quit.

El Mundo published a page from what it said were original account ledgers showing payments from a secret slush fund to Rajoy and other party members in the late 1990s.

Coming six months after center-left daily El Pais published supposed photocopies of the accounts, El Mundo’s report said the original copy challenged claims by the party that the accounts had been fabricated.

It said the ledgers were compiled in part by the party’s former treasurer, Luis Barcenas, who is now behind bars facing corruption charges. The party has distanced itself from Barcenas and has said it has no fear of possible revelations by him from his prison cell.

El Mundo Editor Pedro J. Ramirez handed the original account document to the courts Monday, the newspaper said, without revealing the source of the files.

The excerpt purportedly showed extra payments to party officials, including Rajoy when he was a minister under Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in 1997, 1998 and 1999. The entries include two payments to Rajoy of 2.1 million pesetas ($16,200) in 1998.

The paper called the original documents a “smoking gun” in the scandal. It said the transactions flouted a 1995 law barring such supplementary payments to members of the government.

In a statement, the party insisted that “it does not know of the notes nor their content, and it does not in any way recognize them as the accounts of this political organization.”

All payments to party officials were properly declared, the party added.