Supermarket magnate denies making illegal donations to PP

Juan Roig also claims to have no relationship with jailed PP treasurer Bárcenas

The president of supermarket chain Mercadona, Juan Roig (c), arrives in court on Monday.
The president of supermarket chain Mercadona, Juan Roig (c), arrives in court on Monday.CARLOS ROSILLO

The president of Spanish supermarket giant Mercadona, Juan Roig, denied in court on Monday having paid illegal donations of 90,000 and 150,000 euros in 2004 and 2008, respectively, to the Popular Party (PP), which were noted in the secret ledgers of former party treasurer Luis Bárcenas. Those papers contain details of alleged illegal donations made by members of the so-called Gürtel corruption network in exchange for favorable decisions in the awarding of public contracts, and also list alleged cash payments to top PP officials.

During questioning on Monday as part of the massive Gürtel inquiry, Roig said he had made two donations of 50,000 euros to the FAES think-tank, which is chaired by former PP Prime Minister José María Aznar, and Women for Africa, an NGO headed by former Socialist Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, in 2005 and 2012. However, the latter organization has stated that it has never received a euro from Roig or Mercadona.

Under Spanish law, any donation exceeding 60,000 euros was previously illegal. That limit was raised to 100,000 euros in 2007.

The businessman also confirmed he had held meetings with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “five or six times,” and had spoken of the economy in general and his plans for Mercadona’s expansion but never discussed donations. Roig denied being acquainted with Bárcenas, who is in custody awaiting trial, or his predecessor as PP treasurer Álvaro Lapuerta.

The private prosecution brought by the United Left linked the alleged under-the-counter payments recorded by Bárcenas to a license awarded to Siro, a company that provides bakery products for Mercadona, to build a factory in Paterna, Valencia in 2007. Roig said in court that the construction of the factory, which was built on top of a Roman archeological site, “had been a mess” but said that he did not know the details of the operation.

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