PROFILE

Whistleblower's plea for honesty

Jorge Trías Sagnier ignited outrage across the country when he alleged first-hand knowledge of top PP officials getting cash in envelopes on top of their regular salaries

Jorge Trías Sagnier in his Madrid office.
Jorge Trías Sagnier in his Madrid office.Samuel Sanchez / EL PAÍS

Six months ago, he formally abandoned the Popular Party (PP) - the political grouping which he had represented as a deputy in Congress from 1996 to 2000. Now many of his former party colleagues are angry, baffled and even hurt by the actions of Jorge Trías Sagnier.

Trías Sagnier has become a major nuisance, a contributor to the ruling party's current crisis. This whistleblowing lawyer and writer ignited outrage across the country when he published a column in EL PAÍS last month in which he alleged first-hand knowledge of top PP officials getting cash in envelopes on top of their regular salaries.

Testifying on Wednesday before anticorruption prosecutor Antonio Romeral, the former lawmaker reiterated what he had stated in his column, besides adding that he had seen the unofficial, handwritten accounting sheets published by EL PAÍS some time beforehand.

Former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas - who allegedly wrote the entries, recording dates, amounts and names of party officials that got money - had shown him the ledgers, Trías Sagnier said. Among the names which appear is that of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who allegedly received more than 322,000 euros over a period of years. Hitting back, the PP's secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal said that Trías Sagnier had no credibility.

You have credibility because you have it; not because someone says so"

"You have credibility because you have it; not because someone says you do or don't," he countered. "I am not on the campaign trail. De Cospedal should look to hold those who are responsible but with seriousness, and not through the usage of brilliant phrases or putdowns because that only serves to insult the entire political spectrum."

"Spaniards deserve a lot better, and the parties need to give us convincing explanations on how they spend their money," Trías Sagnier explained. Instead of looking for broader and immediate remedies, such as changes to the party financing laws, Trías Sagnier said that the PP has embarked on the wrong strategy in simply denying all the allegations.

"This entire problem comes from an error in the party financing system and we must change that," he said in an interview published on January 22 after his column appeared.

On Wednesday, anticorruption prosecutors showed Trías Sagnier 14 balance sheets, which were published by EL PAÍS and purportedly record the party's secret payouts as noted down by Bárcenas. The witness confirmed to investigators that they were the same sheets that Bárcenas had shown him some years back, according to judicial sources.

There is an error in the party financing system and we must change that"

For his part, Bárcenas, who gave a statement to prosecutors some hours later, acknowledged that he knew Trías Sagnier and that they had coincided on a number of trips and excursions. He also said, according to sources, that the former deputy was very interested in learning about the ins and outs of the PP finances. Bárcenas has denied that the handwriting is his own.

After EL PAÍS published the first of several stories regarding the ledgers, Trías Sagnier said that he sent Bárcenas a message suggesting that he publicly clear things up.

"I suggested to him not to remain quiet because he can't continue being the wick that is burning the dirty candle," he said.

Trías Sagnier describes himself as a monarchist and conservative. He recently finished writing a piece for the Transition Foundation about "a little known person" during Spain's transition to democracy, Eduardo Navarro Álvarez, who was a close aide to Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez. "I knew him well; he was an honest man without any baggage."

Trías Sagnier says he doesn't practice much law, and has very few clients. "I don't have any great needs. And putting myself forward like this doesn't help but someone has got to it and demand that some practices must be changed because they are tainting our constitutional system."

You may also like

Most viewed in...

Top 50