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Argentine connection to PP corruption scandal

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attends a presentation at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid last July.

Evidence shows PP paid 100,000 euros for event at Rural Society in Buenos Aires

MADRID — A company linked to the Gürtel corruption case organized a campaign rally that Spanish President Mariano Rajoy held in Buenos Aires in 2004 while competing for the presidency, the Spanish press revealed yesterday.

The Gürtel case investigates a network of companies that paid commissions and made gifts to the Spanish Popular Party — currently in office — in exchange for favours and infrastructure and services’ contracts in the communities governed by the conservatives, including Madrid, Valencia and Galicia.

The rally, a dinner organized at the Rural Society in December 2003, cost the PP close to 100,000 euros.

The organization of the event was handled by a company called Special Events, which belongs to Francisco Correa, one of the leaders of the Gürtel corruption scandal uncovered in 2009 and currently under investigation by judge Baltasar Garzón.

The document that proves that Special Events organized the rally was found in one of nine boxes seized by Garzón. The boxes hadn’t been opened until now, radio Cadena Ser reported yesterday.

The bill details that the dinner, which had 8,000 guests, cost 94,691 euros. The company charged 29,709 euros for catering, 5,600 for flags and 22,000 euros for “production” costs.

Francisco Correa is one of the case’s most prominent figures. He was in charge of the PP’s rallies while former president José María Aznar was in office (1996-2004) but continued to do business with the party after that, thanks to his relationship with former treasurer and senator Luis Bárcenas.

Judge Pablo Ruz discovered that Bárcenas had more than 40 million euros in undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland, which allegedly came from the Gürtel network. The finding led to the case referred to as the “PP’s double accounting”, which proved ilegal financing and bribes in the rightist party during a two-decade period.

Bárcenas, who worked 30 years for the PP, has testified that he maintained for almost two decades a set of shadow accounts tracking a slush fund of cash donations and payments that were hidden from tax authorities and auditors.

The scandal has damaged Rajoy’s credibility and eroded voter support for the PP. But with the prime minister expected to hold on to power due to his party’s strong majority in parliament, investors have barely reacted.

Opinion polls show politicians and political parties are widely mistrusted and the Socialists and the PP have lost significant ground to smaller parties which are perceived to be more honest.

New documents that were uncovered yesterday also prove that the Spanish government asked another company in the corrupt network, Down Town Consulting, to build and install stands for the press at the official funeral of the victims of the March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks. The funeral took place on March 24 and cost 11,647 euros.

Herald with Télam

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