Luis Bárcenas, the ex-finance manager and treasurer of the Popular Party (PP) who is under investigation for tax evasion and money laundering, has filed a lawsuit against his former party for firing him without just cause, judicial sources told EL PAÍS on Tuesday.
This new twist to the ongoing controversy over the PP’s finances – a scandal that has rocked Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government – comes on the heels of repeated assurances by the conservative group’s leaders that Bárcenas officially stopped working for the party in 2010.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday, the same day that Bárcenas appeared before the High Court to explain the 38 million euros in earnings he once held in Swiss bank accounts. It was also lodged against the PP hours after María Dolores de Cospedal, the party’s secretary general, gave a confusing explanation to reporters that Bárcenas had stopped working in 2010 but came to an agreement with the party to continue drawing his severance pay on a monthly basis, complete with social security payments and tax deductions.
Contradicting De Cospedal’s version, Bárcenas alleges that he was working as a PP advisor from March 2010 up until January 31 of this year, when he found out that the party had stopped paying his social security contributions without his consent. The date of his termination is significant because it was the same day that EL PAÍS published account ledgers purportedly prepared by him that show that top party figures, including Rajoy, received bonuses from a slush fund along with their regular pay for almost 20 years.
Rajoy gave the impression that the former treasurer had cut his links with the party years ago
According to Bárcenas’ lawsuit, between 2010 and 2013 he was paid 21,300 euros a month by the party, which included extra pay bonuses.
Last week, without mentioning Bárcenas by name, Rajoy tried to give the impression that the former treasurer had cut his links with the party years ago.
Bárcenas signed the lawsuit on February 19, soon after he found out that De Cospedal had filed a defamation lawsuit against him and EL PAÍS over the balance sheets, which appear to show that she also received bonuses from the purported slush fund.
For 31 years, Bárcenas handled the PP’s accounts – first as finance manager and then treasurer. In 2010, he stepped down permanently from his post after he was named as a target in the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts scandal.
In his lawsuit, Bárcenas outlined his work history with the PP. He said he began working on March 2, 1982 and rose through the ranks to become national finance manager. In June 2008, during a PP convention, Rajoy named him treasurer to replace Álvaro Lapuerta, who had retired.