Aznar extends lawsuit against EL PAÍS over Bárcenas papers

Former PM denies receiving extra payments from the Popular Party after he took office

Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar on Friday extended a lawsuit against EL PAÍS in the light of a story that was published on the same day, in which it was alleged that he had continued to receive sums of money from the Popular Party after he took office in contravention of the Incompatibilities Law.

The story relates to the so-called Bárcenas case, an investigation into handwritten ledgers allegedly kept by former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, in which he recorded irregular donations to the party and amounts paid out to leading PP officials.

EL PAÍS reported that according to a report sent by the Tax Agency to High Court Judge Pablo Ruz, who is investigating the case, Aznar received 2.7 million pesetas (16,755 euros) in three payments from the PP after he was sworn in as prime minister on May 5, 1996.

Bárcenas, who faces charges in the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts case, has been found to have held bank accounts containing millions of euros in Switzerland.

The Incompatibilities Law forbids full-time members of the government from receiving any other form of remuneration for professional services, either in the public or private sector, other than their official salary.

In a statement, Aznar “emphatically” denied having received any “bonuses” from the PP after taking office. He said the sums mentioned by EL PAÍS were amounts due prior to having taken office, which were subject to withholding tax and fully declared to the Tax Agency.

Aznar has already initiated legal action against EL PAÍS for “falsely” accusing him of the organization of a system of alleged illegal payments to PP officials with a view to defrauding the tax authorities.

EL PAÍS reported that Aznar received a total of 12.174 million pesetas (73,167 euros) between January 31 and June 17, 2006. The sums he received were subject to a withholding tax of 46 percent. Aznar is not referred to by name but by the reference code 053. The 73,167 euros he received the year he took office consisted of 16 different payments of varying amounts.

In January through to May 3, two days before he took office, Aznar received 9.329 million pesetas (56,500 euros) from the PP. The last two payments were dated June 17, a month and 12 days after he took office.

Aznar’s Popular Party won the general elections of March 3, 1996, ousting the Socialist government of then-Prime Minister Felipe González, which had been dogged by accusations of corruption.

The only exceptions to the Incompatibilities Law of 1995 refer to a member of the government’s management of his own personal wealth, participation in congresses and seminars in an official capacity and activities in non-profit organizations.

The PP stopped payments to other members of the government after they took office. Such payments were habitual and were aimed at complementing the earnings of high-ranking party members. Current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy received 3.5 million pesetas (21,000 euros) in the form of “entertainment expenses” in 1996 prior to joining the Aznar government as public administrations minister.

Aznar’s official salary as prime minister in 1996 was 12.076 million pesetas (72,500 euros) plus housing and maintenance. That sum was inferior to the amount he had earned as head of the PP the previous year.

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