Spain's right sinks deeper into corruption scandal
Conservative Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy changes his stance and now says anyone party member involved in the widening scandal will be held accountable.Madrid – Spain's conservative opposition leader came under renewed pressure Wednesday after newspapers published new allegations of corruption involving senior members of his party.
But, in a shift in his position on the widening scandal, Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy vowed that anyone involved would be held accountable.
"In any organisation, there may be people who do things they should not do, but the Popular Party will act and will do so with responsibility," Rajoy told a public meeting.
"Faced with allegations of corruption, the Popular Party will neither look the other way nor do nothing, and any person who has done things that they should not have done will be held responsible before the court of public opinion," he said.
Even as late as Tuesday evening, Rajoy was urging party activists to show "indifference" towards the allegations that businessmen paid bribes to regional PP lawmakers to guarantee lucrative construction contracts.
A number of PP members have been under investigation since February over the alleged bribes, but transcripts of wiretaps and interviews published across Spanish media are putting new pressure on Rajoy.
The excerpts, which made the front page of most Spanish newspapers, paint a murky picture of backhanders, bribes and illicit gifts that trace back to a group of companies run by Francisco Correa, a PP event organiser.
Correa allegedly held a number of secret accounts under the name "Don Vito", the name of the lead character played by Marlon Brando in the Godfather films.
They also indicate the corruption was more widespread than first thought, alleging politicians in the PP regional strongholds of Galicia and Castilla-and-Leon also took illegal cash payments in exchange for contracts.
Initial investigations had been focused on businessmen and regional lawmakers from Valencia and Madrid.
Among those named by the newspapers Wednesday are Alejandro Agag, the son-in-law of former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, and a former development minister, Francisco Alvarez-Cascos.
Rajoy insisted his party does not use illegal funding, but that it is the victim of "a network of corruption".
Around 70 people, including 17 PP members suspected to have received a total of EUR 5.5 million from contractors, are under official investigation over the scandal.
In August 2008, a court in Valencia dropped a corruption probe against the head of the Valencia regional government, Francisco Camps, a senior PP member. Prosecutors have since appealed the decision.
The party's treasurer, Luis Barcenas, who has been questioned by a judge in connection with the scandal, announced in July he was stepping down until he was "proven innocent before the courts".
A police report published in Spanish newspapers in September also detailed an organised system of hidden financing of the PP in Valencia, through false accounting by a company called Orange Market and implicating construction companies awarded public contracts in the region.
AFP / Expatica