Kickbacks-for-contracts Scheme

Socialist government had to pay Gürtel-linked firm for Aznar trips

Popular Party begins series of crisis-management meetings in wake of ex-treasurer Bárcenas being jailed

The Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had to shell out more than 544,000 euros to a company involved in the Gürtel corruption investigation for trips taken by ex-Popular Party (PP) Prime Minister José María Aznar between 2004 and 2005, according to former government officials.

Pasadena Viajes was one of dozens of companies connected to Francisco Correa, the alleged head of the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts scheme, and is listed in the inquiry that broke in 2009.

Both officials from the past administration of Zapatero and former administrators for Pasadena said that the travel agency only billed the government for trips taken abroad by Aznar.

"We don't comment on trips made by ex-prime ministers," said one of Zapatero's former aides, explaining that none of the Socialists used Pasadena, with the contract in question later going to El Corte Inglés travel services.

"We had Aznar's trust and the Moncloa [PM's office], under the Socialists, only paid us for the trips," said one of the former administrators at Pasadena. "If the bill was high it was because Aznar liked to travel with enough bodyguards for three shifts."

Meanwhile, the PP is in crisis-management mode after Thursday's jailing of its former treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who is being held without bail at Madrid's Soto del Real prison.

PP secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal will meet with Aznar today in Guadarrama after inaugurating a campus for his think-tank FAES Institute, while Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has summoned a meeting of PP regional leaders.

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