For the first time in four years since the Gürtel investigation began, anticorruption prosecutors have found indications that the Popular Party (PP) may have gotten kickback donations from a group of corrupt businessmen who received juicy public contracts from local and regional governments controlled by the conservatives, a judge said Friday.
High Court Judge Pablo Ruz, who is overseeing the massive Gürtel inquiry, has decided to delve further into the PP’s finances after prosecutors presented him with evidence based on the ruling party’s accounting turned over by the Court of Auditors.
In a ruling, Ruz laid down the reasons why he won’t give up an angle of the investigation regarding the accounting ledgers of former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, which allegedly record the amounts of bonuses paid out to top party officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, during an 18-year period.
His colleague at the High Court, Judge Javier Gómez Bermúdez, asked Ruz earlier this week to recuse himself from that part of the inquiry to prevent “duplication” after he had taken jurisdiction of a complaint filed by the United Left (IU) coalition over the PP’s financing.
The Bárcenas ledgers and the Gürtel kickbacks for contracts inquiry are two separate issues, Gómez Bermudez argued.
But Ruz revealed that anticorruption prosecutors have found at least four similarities in the records allegedly kept by a Gürtel accountant reflecting kickbacks paid by the corrupt businessmen and contributions to the PP in the Court of Auditors’ records.
Judge Ruz has also ordered that the PP turn over all of its records regarding appearance fees, contributions and revenue intakes from 1990 to 2011, and the personal financial statements filed in the Senate by Bárcenas while he served as senator.
Bárcenas, who has said the handwriting in the ledgers isn’t his, has refused to take a calligraphy test for the High Court. Ruz wants to match his handwriting in Senate papers to that of the ledgers.