The secret, undeclared parallel accounting of Spain's Popular Party (PP) was a constant throughout the period that Luis Bárcenas was present at the party's Madrid headquarters, which spanned three decades. This is what he told the National Audience this Monday, at the beginning of the Bárcenas papers trial. Not only that, but he pointed a finger directly at former prime minister Mariano Rajoy, insisting that he also received the controversial bonuses under the acronym “M. Rajoy”. He himself handed the ex-PM the envelopes, he said. And he revealed how the party offered him 500,000 euros to falsify the papers that are one of the focuses of the trial. After various incidents, the trial finally began today, investigating, among other things, the irregular financing of construction alterations on the headquarters in Calle Genoa, 13, a building which the party has now decided to leave by decision of leader Pablo Casado.
The Bárcenas papers trial began as expected: with the prosecutor's question to the defendant Luis Bárcenas as to whether he would ratify the statement he made in July 2013 before judge Pablo Ruz of the National Audience. In that statement, he admitted the party’s Caja B, the alternative accounts. And the ex-PP treasurer did indeed ratify it, and even expanded it. From there, he began ventilating his knowledge, liberally tossing out incriminating statements as he had already done in his letter to anti-corruption prosecutors. In that text, he had already accused Mariano Rajoy of having responsibilities in the matter. Bárcenas was also shown the alleged documents that made up the irregular accounting and he confirmed that indeed they were in his handwriting.
First, the former treasurer revealed how, after the publication of the Bárcenas papers in the newspaper El País in 2013, a party lawyer had proposed that he manipulate and falsify the documents with the aim of “confusing public opinion”. At the same meeting, he said, the party offered him, in return, half a million euros in cash from business donations, in return for his departure from the party and the end of his employment dispute. But, according to the former treasurer, he claimed 975,000 euros, which he believed was owed to him for seniority and as compensation, and without the money being hidden from the Spanish tax agency.
Thus, Luis Bárcenas explained how the party's lawyer Javier Iglesias and the wife of a former PP leader involved in the earlier Gürtel case "told him about the concern there was at party level about these documents." They then proposed the manipulation: "That you re-do the papers, but varying the item names and quantities so that they could be made public and would confuse public opinion about who were the good guys and who were the bad guys."
As well, the ex-treasurer listed the party leaders who received bonuses when he was first manager and then treasurer of the PP. He mentioned the names of Mariano Rajoy, María Dolores de Cospedal, Ángel Acebes, Javier Arenas, Rodrigo Rato, Francisco Álvarez Cascos, Federico Trillo and Jaime Mayor Oreja. While he did not evade his "responsibility" because "paying expenses to people with opaque funds was illegal", he also said that he complied with the "instructions" of Álvaro Lapuerta, who died in 2018.
Bárcenas also explained the essence of this parallel accounting, which began when Álvaro Lapuerta was treasurer: "Donations were received, most of them exceeded the permitted limits. And there were a number of commitments to be met, such as the remuneration to elected officials or the payment to advisers". The former PP officer said that "they needed money of these characteristics to meet these payments," separated from the official accounting.
According to his statement, the parallel accounts were discontinued in 2009, when the Gürtel case erupted. Then, "I was told to settle the balance and hand it over to the party president," who was Mariano Rajoy. Bárcenas said that the last deliveries of money to Rajoy and Cospedal were made by him, in person, in July 2008.
Prior to the statement, the court rejected a courtroom face-off between Luis Bárcenas and former PM Mariano Rajoy to resolve possible contradictions, as requested by the ex-PP treasurer's defence lawyer. The presiding judge argued that this was more appropriate to the investigation phase of the case, already completed, and that now it was “up to the court” to assess the credibility of the witnesses. The judge did, however, accept testimonies from journalists Francisco Mercado, Eduardo Inda, Ernesto Ekaizer and María Luisa Bernal.
What is the alleged crime?
The specific focus of this trial is the payment of the building refurbishing of a part of the headquarters of the Popular Party, at Calle Genoa, 13 in Madrid, which was allegedly funded using 900,000 euros of undeclared money from the party's so-called Caja B, its secret unofficial accounts, via which irregular income for large companies entered and from which bonuses were paid to senior figures in the party. This parallel accounting system was maintained for at least two decades. The trial will also seek to clarify whether the PP committed a tax offence by failing to declare the allegedly illegal donations of businesspeople and whether Luis Bárcenas, then treasurer of the party, creamed off some of that money himself. The trial is expected to last until May.
Who is accused?
Luis Bárcenas is the main defendant. Having already been sentenced to 29 years' imprisonment in the first Gürtel trial, he now faces a possible five further years for the crimes of misappropriation of funds, tax offences and forgery. He will be accompanied in the dock by former PP manager Cristóbal Páez and three officials from the construction company that carried out the works in the Calle Genoa building. The PP as an organization also faces another accusation as a subsidiary civil party responsible for the crimes investigated. On the other hand, key people will not sit in the dock, but on the witness bench include: former PMs José María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy; the party's former general secretaries María Dolores de Cospedal, Javier Arenas, Francisco Álvarez Cascos and Ángel Acebes, and the former speaker of the Spanish senate Pío García Escudero, among others. They are not accused, but Bárcenas will predictably make statements implicating them.