Popular Party donation magnates remain silent in court
Construction businessmen called before judge to explain gifts to conservative grouping while receiving government contracts
The judge investigating the accounts of former Popular Party (PP) treasurer Luis Bárcenas on Monday began questioning eight prominent businessman suspected of making illegal payments to the conservative party.
Juan Miguel Villar Mir, president of construction group OHL, declined to answer questions, as did Alfonso García Pozuelo of Consructura Hispánica, which was awarded more than a million euros of public contracts by PP officials. OHL was also the beneficiary of 215 public works contracts awarded by the PP between 2002 and 2009 worth over 4.5 million euros.
Villar Mir appears in the Bárcenas papers as having donated 530,000 euros to the PP. García's nine donations totaled 258,000 euros. The testimony of the subpoenaed businessmen will continue until Wednesday.
As revealed by EL PAÍS earlier this year, Bárcenas' handwritten ledgers contain details of years of cash donations, many of which were broken into smaller amounts and paid into a Banco de Vitoria bank account as "anonimous" gifts. The handwritten accounts, which reflect incoming and outgoing funds between 1990 and 2008, show donors’ names and the full amounts donated, which often violated party financing law on two counts: first, they went over the 60,000-euro limit for any one individual or company; second, many donors were builders or developers who were simultaneously getting government contracts, which constitutes a conflict of interest. There are single contributions of up to 250,000 euros, and the same individual donated 400,000 euros in one year. The legal limit was surpassed on more than 30 occasions.
The ledgers also show how senior party figures received extra salaries from the PP's funds, often on top of their pay from public posts, a practice which is not permitted.
High Court Judge Pablo Ruz is investigating the Bárcenas case as an offshoot of the pre-existing Gürtel kickbacks probe, in which businessmen and PP local and regional officials are accused of colluding to exchange generous public contracts for cheap or even free events organized for the party.