Aznar's government 'hid cash' in medal scandal

30th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

30 September 2004, MADRID - Jose Maria Aznar's administration hid an invoice detailing payments to a law firm it "unscrupulously" hired to lobby US lawmakers to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on the then prime minister, a member of the present government has alleged.

30 September 2004

MADRID - Jose Maria Aznar's administration hid an invoice detailing payments to a law firm it "unscrupulously" hired to lobby US lawmakers to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on the then prime minister, a member of the present government has alleged.

The incumbent Socialist government's secretary of state for foreign affairs, Bernardino Leon, voiced the charges late Wednesday in the Spanish parliament.

Leon told Spanish deputies the present administration has collected indicating that predecessor Aznar's administration misused government funds to obtain the medal for the conservative leader who staunchly supported the US enterprise in Iraq.

According to the records of the Spanish Embassy in Washington, Leon said, the prior Popular Party administration paid the Piper Rudnick law firm some USD 12,000 for activities related to the congressional medal.

Leon pointed out that the present Socialist government has refocused the existing contract with the law firm on economic, financial and trade objectives, "with a clear and concrete mandate (to handle) issues the embassy cannot cover".

In her response, former foreign minister Ana Palacio, spokeswoman for the PP in parliament, denied that the Aznar administration had lobbied for the medal, and she accused the present administration of distorting facts to slander her party and the former prime minister.

According to Leon, "at the first executive meeting" embassy officials held with Piper Rudnick attorneys, on 27 January, they drew up a work plan that included efforts to speed up winning the medal for Aznar, and those activities were discussed "at all the following meetings".

Leon attacked the idea of using public funds "for things like the medal". He also criticised payments to a lobbyist as "an unscrupulous procedure" to "try to ensure the presence of senators" at Aznar's speech to Congress on 4 February.

Though Aznar obtained a political advantage from the contract, Leon stressed, the present administration is not accusing the former government of committing a crime.

The contract which Piper Rudnick and then-Spanish ambassador Javier Ruperez signed on 30 December 2003 said Madrid would pay the legal firm USD 2 million for 20 months of consulting work related to the promotion of Spanish-US relations.

On 17 March, the House of Representatives' financial services committee gave the go-ahead to a bill to bestow the prestigious gold medal on Aznar "in recognition of his outstanding and enduring contributions to maintaining the security of all freedom-loving nations."

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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