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From 1982 to 2009. That is the period over which Spain's Popular Party (PP) is alleged to have employed a corrupt parallel accounting system. And today, the man who was the president of the party for over half of that period - from 1990 to 2004 - denied all knowledge of it under oath. José María Aznar, prime minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004, appeared telematically as a witness in the Bárcenas papers trial, in which the party's former treasurer is the main defendant. The former PM denied everything: no, he was not aware of an alleged Caja B, an alternative set of books, and nor did he receive bonuses or give orders for financial compensation to be paid. But he only stood up for his own innocence, not that of others. The former PP leader offered his usual aloof and defiant approach, confronting the lawyers for the private prosecutions in the case. Among them Gonzalo Boye, of whom Aznar remarked that he is lawyer to Carles Puigdemont. But also with the rest. "I come as a witness, not a chat show guest," he replied to the insistent questions. As a witness - like Mariano Rajoy, who was due to follow him in appearing - he has an obligation to tell the truth. If not, he could face criminal consequences.

Right at the beginning of his testimony statement, the former PP president made it clear that "he did not know of any parallel accounting" in the party. "I did not know of these papers, nor do I know them now, nor do I have any indication of their credibility or justification," Aznar replied to repeated questions. Similarly, he stated that he never received "any bonus" or authorized any under-the-table payments, because it was not his "function" to authorize payments. "I have never known any parallel structure," he reiterated throughout his court examination. He only knew of one set of accounts, the official one, which was sent to the Court of Auditors as required.


José María Aznar: "I have never known of any "B" accounting system in the PP, I have only ever known the official one" 

However, the former Spanish prime minister only defended his own innocence, not that of others. Asked about the accusations, he responded in his well-known manner: "I don't know what others did, I don't care. I don't know what my successors have done, nor am I interested."

Some things he remembered and others, surprisingly, he didn’t even recall. He had no memory of the libel complaint he laid against the newspaper El País in 2013 after the publication of the Bárcenas papers. “I don’t know, frankly; I can't answer that. It's possible", he responded when asked by one of the lawyers. Nor did he remember that the complaint was dismissed.

Clashes with the lawyers were a constant. The first was with the ADADE association respresentative, whom Aznar reminded that he had defended the PSOE in cases such as the Gürtel. The second, he attacked for having among his clients Socialist deputies in the Valencian Parliament. And the third, Gonzalo Boye, who is the lawyer of Catalan president in exile Carles Puigdemont and of drug trafficker Sito Miñanco; in this instance, the judge had to call order and give the witness a warning: "These issues are not of interest at all." Aznar put his defiance on display: "Even if you ask me the same question in 500 different ways, I will continue to give the same answer."

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.