PP and architect’s books to be cross-checked for illegal payments

Judge suspects ruling party paid firm under the table for refurbishment work

High Court Judge Pablo Ruz.
High Court Judge Pablo Ruz.claudio álvarez

High Court Judge Pablo Ruz has ordered the police to cross-check information obtained in a search of the offices of the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) last month against those seized from the company Unifica, which was responsible for refurbishing the PP’s Madrid headquarters, in order to verify if the party paid under the table for any of the work carried out.

Ruz wants members of the police’s Economic and Financial Crimes Unit (UDEF) to carry out a detailed study of 5,067 documents seized on December 19 from the PP’s headquarters in the center of Madrid and those found in a search of the offices of the architect Gonzalo Urquijo, who faces possible charges of falsifying documents and tax fraud linked to an alleged payment of 888,000 euros in 2008 as part of the fee for the refurbishment work his company carried out for the PP between 2005 and 2011.

In their search of Unifica’s offices, the police seized abundant information on the refurbishment work performed by the firm for the PP. The documents include a number of receipts whose dates and amounts coincide with those included in the secret ledgers kept by former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who is in preventive custody facing possible charges of tax fraud and money laundering, among other crimes.

The ledgers show a series of illegal donations to the party by businessmen as well as cash bonuses made to top PP officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the party’s secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal, both of whom have denied receiving any such payments.

A Toledo judge last month dismissed a lawsuit filed by De Cospedal against Bárcenas, ruling that there was “insufficient evidence” to show he had defamed her in revelations that she and other PP members received cash bonuses on top of their regular salaries.

After an examination of the PP’s official accounts, Bárcenas’s parallel accounting system and documents found at Unifica’s offices, the police suspect that the PP paid Gonzalo Urquijo a total of 1.07 million euros under the table, including 184,000 in 2006 and 888,000 in 2008.

In drawing up their report, the judge requested that members of the UDEF take into consideration other elements that form part of the investigation that have a possible bearing on the sums paid by the PP to Unifica.

Judge Ruz has also told the speaker of the Valencia regional assembly, Juan Cotino, that he will present himself at Cotino’s office on January 17 to question him in connection with the probe into Bárcenas’ ledgers. Cotino responded that he did not want “any privileges” because of his position and would prefer to be questioned in court. Cotino also reminded reporters that on December 6 he had said he did not know Bárcenas at all.

That same day Ruz is also due to question Cotino’s nephew, Vicente Cotino, the sole administrator of the company Asedes Capital y Sedesa. The day prior to that he will also grill two other businessmen: Ramón Aigé, the chairman of Sorigue-Acsa, and Antonio Pinal, the chief executive officer of construction and real estate firm Bruesa.

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