Spain ruling party moneyman detained in graft probe

27th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

A former top member of Spain's ruling party was remanded in custody on Thursday as part of a broad probe into fraud and corruption that has rocked the country's political leaders.

Investigations into the Popular Party's ex-treasurer Luis Barcenas have rattled Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government as it tries to steer Spain out of a deep recession, having narrowly avoided seeking a sovereign bailout last year.

Judge Pablo Ruz ordered Barcenas detained over allegations including money laundering and tax fraud, saying the move was aimed at preventing him from fleeing and to preserve evidence.

Rajoy and the party have distanced themselves from Barcenas but his detention is a dramatic development in a saga that has tainted the highest ranks of the governing party.

The judge at the National Court in Madrid, Spain's top criminal tribunal, is investigating several affairs of alleged fraud and corruption.

In February, the court had already confiscated Barcenas's passport and banned him from leaving the country.

He stands accused of channelling undeclared payments to top party members and he is also being investigated over tens of millions of euros (dollars) he allegedly held in Swiss accounts.

Prosecutors had warned that Barcenas was a flight risk.

"The risk of flight has increased because Switzerland says he has been raising funds in the United States and Uruguay from those of his Swiss accounts that have not been blocked," the source said.

Leading centre-left newspaper El Pais in January published extracts of account ledgers that appeared to show tens of thousands of euros from donors being channelled to senior Popular Party officials, including Rajoy.

Rajoy has denied receiving undisclosed payments and both he and Barcenas say the ledgers are false.

In February, the prime minister rejected calls to resign over the scandal, which has fanned outrage among Spaniards enduring the spending cuts he has imposed in the recession.

© 2013 AFP

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