Bárcenas judge zeros in on Popular Party office payment

Supermarket magnate called in for questioning on donation

The chairman of supermarket chain Mercadona, Juan Roig
The chairman of supermarket chain Mercadona, Juan RoigMANUEL BRUQUE (EFE)

High Court Judge Pablo Ruz has received a report from the State Public Accounts Department suggesting that in 2008 the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) paid 200,000 euros to buy an office to serve as the headquarters of its La Rioja branch.

 The report notes a match between the official accounts of the PP regarding the purchase of the headquarters and a sum of 200,000 euros that figures in secret ledgers former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas kept of alleged illegal donations to the party and cash bonuses paid to PP leaders, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has denied receiving any such payments, judicial sources said Friday.

There is an entry in Bárcenas’ ledgers dated May 26, 2008 that says “Given to La Rioja” accompanied by the sum of 200,000 euros. Judge Ruz, therefore, suspects that the La Rioja headquarters were paid for with money received under the table, something that Bárcenas himself has attested to.

Bárcenas is in preventive custody and could face charges of tax fraud and money laundering. He has acknowledged being the author of the ledgers, the existence of which was revealed by EL PAÍS on January 31 of last year.

Judge Ruz has summoned PP officials at the time the headquarters in la Rioja was acquired for questioning on February 5.

The magistrate has also cited Juan Roig, the chairman of Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona, as a witness in the so-called Bárcenas case in connection with an alleged payment of 150,000 euros made to the ruling conservative Popular Party on February 27, 2008, according to Bárcenas’ ledgers. Mercadona has denied making any illegal donations to the PP.

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