As an internal inquiry gets underway into illegal cash payments allegedly made to party leaders, the Popular Party (PP) on Tuesday began looking at ways it can call in witnesses to testify before a panel and sign a clean-conduct oath without infringing their legal rights.
Sources at the PP said that party treasurer Carmen Navarro and legal advisor Alberto Durán will be calling in a host of current and past officials, alleged to have received fat cash bonuses for expenses and representation fees along with their generous salaries over the years. The focus of the investigation will center on the sources of those funds.
On Monday, former PP Deputy José Trías Sagnier acknowledged that members of the party regularly received large amounts of cash along with their normal salaries, but said he couldn't be sure if they came from anonymous donations.
The investigation comes after the PP was rocked by reports that Swiss authorities passed on information to a Spanish court concerning a 22-million-euro secret account belonging to former party treasurer Luis Bárcenas.
Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro appeared in Congress today, but offered no information to lawmakers on whether Bárcenas had indeed tried to clean his slate by declaring the money under a tax-amnesty program for undeclared funds that was set up by the government last year. The minister said that all tax information, including that relating the amnesty, remained confidential.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will also appear before lawmakers next week for his first question-and-answer session in parliament this year.
The PP is looking for legal methods to take statements from party leaders concerning their earnings without violating their constitutional rights to refuse to say anything that could be used against them later in court.
Separately, Jose María Aznar, a former prime minister and leader of the Popular Party, has said he will sue EL PAÍS for defamation over an article published on January 19 in which it was published that he had been among PP leaders who were given cash bonuses on top of their basic pay.