Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Picture: REUTERS
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Picture: REUTERS

PRIME Minister Mariano Rajoy and Spain’s ruling People’s Party denied on Thursday that the party had made unofficial payments from business donors to the premier and other party leaders. This was after a newspaper had published what it said were secret party accounts.

El Pais published images of excerpts of almost two decades of handwritten accounts that it said were maintained by People’s Party treasurers. El Pais said the accounts showed 11 years of payments to Mr Rajoy of €25,200 a year. The accounts, which the newspaper said amounted to a parallel unofficial bookkeeping system, show donations from companies, mostly builders, and regular payments of thousands of euros to a number of party leaders.

A People’s Party source, who asked not to be named, said the allegations raised serious ethical questions about party operations, especially because many of them occurred during Spain’s building boom, in which politicians granted large numbers of development contracts. "It looks like bribes, the nature of the document is incriminating, if it’s true."

The People’s Party statement said payments to its leaders and staff were always legal.

Mr Rajoy’s office said he had not engaged in improper conduct.

Judge Pablo Ruz, overseeing a four-year-old corruption case involving the party, has asked prosecutors to look into the allegations of secret payments and could open a new investigation, sources said.

The party has ordered an external audit of its accounts. The widening corruption scandal over alleged secret cash payments to People’s Party leaders has hit Mr Rajoy’s popularity as he struggles with a deep recession and fiscal crisis.