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Rajoy denies all knowledge of illegal party funding

In first court appearance by a sitting Spanish president, the leader of the People's Party insists he had only “political responsibilities” and knew “absolutely” nothing about financial matters

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26 July 2017 05:04 PM

by

ACN | Madrid

Mariano Rajoy became the first sitting Spanish president to testify in court on Wednesday, when he denied knowing anything about the illegal funding of the People’s Party (PP), and insisted he had never been in charge of the party’s accounts. Rajoy told the court that as campaign head he merely had “political responsibilities” and knew “absolutely” nothing about financial matters.

While not personally accused of any wrongdoing, the Spanish president was called to court to testify in the ongoing investigation into bribery and fraud involving local authorities and small businesses. During what has become known as the Gürtel case, allegations surfaced of the existence of a slush fund in the PP.

Rajoy began his testimony punctually after arriving at the Audiencia Nacional high court by car, so as to avoid providing the hundreds of journalists waiting outside with images of the Spanish president climbing the steps to the court. As part of his testimony, Rajoy also denied receiving illegal payments from the party or any knowledge of other MPs doing so. “As members some received supplements but they were declared to the Tax Office,” he said, adding that it is “absolutely false” that he himself accepted cash.

Asked about his acquaintance with the main figure in the case, businessman Francisco Correa, who is accused of bribing PP officials, Rajoy said that, at most, he may have “greeted him during a public event.” The president added that the PP cut off links with Correa’s business in 2004 when the party treasurer told him that some suppliers "were using the PP name in some Madrid local authorities." "He told me that there was no proof but that he did not like it and we decided to stop working with mister Correa," he said.

Citing security costs, Rajoy had originally asked to testify by video link. However, the court refused the request, arguing that he had been called to appear in his role as former PP secretary general and not as Spanish president. Nevertheless, Rajoy was granted some special privileges, such as testifying from a position on the same level as the judges, which La Moncloa had insisted on so as to avoid the image of Rajoy alongside Luis Bárcenas and other accused party members.

“Only one path: resign”

Opposition parties quickly reacted to the sight of Rajoy being questioned by prosecutors. PSOE leader, Pedro Sanchez, called for Rajoy’s resignation, telling reporters: "There's only one path: resign.” While Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias referred to Rajoy's testimony as "shameful". Rajoy’s ruling PP party currently has a minority in the Spanish Parliament.

The Gürtel case came to light in 2009 and has become the largest corruption scandal in Spain’s modern democratic period. So far, the allegedly fraudulent contracts uncovered by the investigation amount to 354 million euros, while the summary of the case has become the bulkiest in the history of the Audiencia Nacional.

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  • Spanish president Mariano Rajoy testifying in court (by ACN/Pool EFE)

  • Spanish president Mariano Rajoy testifying in court (by ACN/Pool EFE)

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