The PP's circle of corruption tightens around Mariano Rajoy

UDEF chief inspector highlights "indications" that point to party's slush fund

The circle of corruption surrounding the PP, split over several cases such as "the Bárcenas papers" and the Gürtel plot, is tightening around Mariano Rajoy. A judicial ruling is all that is needed to prove the existence of a slush fund in the Spanish party designed to make payments off the books to its leaders, as well as irregular financing via an illegal business network led by Francisco Correa. All of the indications not yet confirmed by a judge have allowed the Spanish president to dodge the accusations-- when it is not him, he delegates his defense to his Ministers--, but there are now many testimonies that contradict the version that he gave four months ago in his statement to Madrid’s National Court.

"Never", "in no way" are some of the formulas that Rajoy repeated time and again in his appearance as a witness in the trial of the first phase of the Gürtel plot, in reference to whether he received cash payments from the party and if he knew, as leader of the PP, that the party's election campaigns had been financed illegally in some towns. Like a mantra, he shirked all responsibility. "I don't handle money issues, I'm only involved in the political situation", he insisted. This differed from the version given by former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who in his testimony for the "Bárcenas papers" case stated that in the party's headquarters on Madrid’s calle Génova they knew about everything, with María Dolores de Cospedal, the Secretary General of the party, at the helm.

The legal proceedings over the first stage of the Gürtel case (1999-2005) are coming to an end, and the prosecutor is taking it for proven that the PP participated in a lucrative way in the scheme, which filled several pockets of the party with cash from the slush fund, which came in turn from a network of bribery and illegal contracts led by businessman Francisco Correa. "The government will wait for the ruling, and only at that time will it take the appropriate measures", argued Rafael Catalá, Minister of Justice, after Podemos spokesperson Irene Montero criticized during the congressional session that "he who steals, even if wrapped in a flag, is still called a thief".

Another prominent name from the PP who has distanced himself from the plot is ex-President José María Aznar. In an interview on Wednesday morning on Cadena SER radio, the honorary president of the party stated that he is not "responsible" for either Gürtel or the party's slush fund. He argued that he didn't handle the day-to-day management of the PP, and that he knewFrancisco Correa, head of the plot “very little”. "I don't feel responsible, but I don't feel indifferent either", he admitted.

A "criminal organization", according to the UDEF

Added to Bárcenas' story, the notation 'M. Rajoy' in his notes, and the Prosecutor's accusation was the chief inspector for the Spanish police's Financial and Fiscal Crime Unit (UDEF), Manuel Morocho, who appeared on Tuesday before the Congressional investigative commission looking into the illegal financing of the PP, four months after its last session. Morocho stated that the "indications" of corruption connected with the PP outline the "profile of a criminal organization", although he emphasized the need to wait for a court of law to "assess and rule on" this thesis. "The existence of a second set of books (the slush fund) is still an assumption", insisted Morocho, who did not hold back from pointing the finger at Mariano Rajoy. In her appearance, Podemos PM Carolina Bescansa asked Morocho about the names that appear in the Bárcenas papers, and he responded that, in effect, the name of the PP leader appears "circumstantially".

Morocho also took advantage of his appearance in Congress to emphasize the number of complaints and lawsuits that PP leaders have file against him for heading up the Gürtel investigation. "The aim was very clear: to destabilize the investigation", said Morocho, who added that the seven complaints were dismissed. In addition, he expressed his support for creating a central office that would "bring together different agencies" with the aim of streamlining legal processes against corruption.

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