Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government was rocked by a major corruption scandal on Thursday after the publication of documents that allegedly showed him receiving 250,000 euros (US$341,700) that had been hidden from tax authorities.
Rajoy denied the allegations after El Pais published extracts from what it said were secret accounts for his People’s Party (PP).
However, opponents called for his resignation and ordinary Spaniards asked whether those now imposing spending cuts and tax rises in the middle of a painful recession had previously indulged in, or tolerated, systematic tax avoidance.
El Pais said the documents showed payments from a number of well-known Spanish businesspeople that were then partly used to pay regular supplements to senior party officials. The most recent payments were in 2009.
“The People’s party has only one set of accounts and it is clean, transparent and submitted to the official accounting authority,” said party secretary-general Maria Dolores de Cospedal, who said she was also speaking for Rajoy. “We have absolutely nothing to hide.”
However, former PP deputy Jorge Trias Sagnier has already said that senior party members had received payments.
Cospedal, who denied getting payments attributed to her in the documents, threatened to sue El Pais and any media outlets that repeated the allegations.
However, all major Spanish broadcasters and news Web sites were carrying the story on Thursday.
“The party vehemently denies the contents of these documents,” she said. “I have spoken to the prime minister and he is calm.”
However former Senate president Pio Garcia Escudero admitted receiving one of the payments detailed in the accounts.
He said the figure matched a loan he was given, and later repaid, to repair bomb damage to his home after a terrorist attack.
“If the figure relating to Escudero is true that does not validate everything else that has been published,” Cospedal said.