Businessmen in slush fund papers told to appear before High Court

Popular Party may have civil liability if donations are found to be illegal, says judge

The High Court on Monday issued subpoenas for about a dozen businessmen whose names appear in supposed Popular Party (PP) ledgers reflecting fat contributions made to the ruling party over the years.

In the latest development over the inquiry into the records of former party treasurer Luis Bárcenas, Judge Javier Gómez Bermúdez opened a new investigation into the PP’s finances based on a complaint filed by the United Left (IU) political bloc. Besides the prominent businessmen, Bárcenas and his predecessor, Álvaro Lapuerta, have also been summoned to testify.

Another High Court judge is already investigating alleged connections between Bárcenas’ accounting and records of kickbacks paid to PP officials that make up part of the massive Gürtel inquiry that was blown open in February 2009 with the arrests of alleged mastermind Francisco Correa, his right-hand man Pablo Crespo and a host of others. Judge Pablo Ruz is handling that investigation.

Anticorruption prosecutors have told Judge Ruz that Gómez Bermúdez should retain jurisdiction over the entire case, legal sources have told Efe.

In his ruling, Ruz said that the PP could have civil liability for the money that was paid to the party by donors listed in Bárcenas’ papers if there is evidence that these contributions violated the law.

The judge has decided for now not to officially name as a suspect former Bankia chairman Rodrigo Rato, who at one time was in charge of the PP’s finances. The same goes for former Interior Minister Ángel Acebes and ex-Defense Minister Federico Trillo, who is now Spain’s ambassador in London. The IU asked that they be investigated because they reportedly received bonuses from 2003 to 2008 from the PP’s slush fund financed through donations.

Also named in the IU complaint are José Luis Sánchez Domínguez of Grupo Sando, who reportedly gave a one-million-euro contribution; Manuel Contreras Caro, chairman of Azvy, who is listed as giving 858,000 euros; and Luis de Rivero, ex-chairman of Sacyr Vallehermoso, who contributed 500,000 euros.

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