PP ‘backed into a corner’ over corruption investigation commission as Rivera lays it on the line to Rajoy

Ciudadanos’ leader Albert Rivera (right) and his Parliamentary spokesman Juan Carlos Girauta (left)

HARSH words from centre-right Ciudadanos directed at the PP and president Mariano Rajoy hinted at the ‘bridge’ party’s becoming disillusioned with the team it helped regain power in November as it continues to resist setting up an investigation commission into the Bárcenas slush-fund dealings.

Ciudadanos’ leader Albert Rivera reminded Rajoy that the PP is only in power because he, Rivera, agreed to his own party’s 32 MPs voting in favour of the presidential investiture – and that this was only because of a deal signed between them ahead of the in-house elections.

“The PP promised to set up an investigation commission as part of the investiture pact, and now they are in power, they seem to want to break the contract,” Rivera stormed.

“Parliament has no obstacles to setting it up – we can do so with or without the PP’s blessing – because there are 188 MPs in opposition who are willing to get started on it now.”

Rivera says that although the deal with the PP ‘has moved forward in some areas’, whenever measures against corruption reared their head, they ‘put up a barrier’.

Although Ciudadanos alone, with 32 seats in Parliament, would not be enough to force the creation of the commission if the PP voted against, the PSOE, Podemos, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the Catalunya Left Republicans (ERC) have all been campaigning for the same move and, together, they make up 188 out of 350.

Potentially, another 26 could add strength to the majority, through the other, smaller regional parties.

The commission would be made up of five PP members, four each from the PSOE and Podemos, three from Ciudadanos, one from PNV, one from ERC and two other non-affiliated MPs.

If the PP refused to allow any of its MPs to take part, the numbers would be readjusted and the commission entirely comprising members of the opposition – meaning it would be in the PP’s interests to agree, given that they are powerless to stop it going ahead.

So far, the PP has retaliated by saying an investigation commission into the financial dealings of all parties in Parliament should be opened, although Ciudadanos and the PSOE reminded them that the PP is the only party with five out of its six treasurers facing charges for forgery, money-laundering and corruption.

Rajoy said the commission should be held in the Senate, not in Parliament, which would effectively mean all those taking part would be PP members – an idea Rivera calls ‘ridiculous’ and a ‘joke in bad taste’.

In an informal conversation with reporters in Parliament, Rivera said he believes the PP is starting to feel ‘backed into a corner’, leading to ‘excuses’ and ‘poor attempts at justification’.

Two other investigative commissions are due to be called in the short-term future, thanks to pressure from the opposition: one into the practices of the interior ministry when Jorge Fernández Díaz was leader, and which was due to open on Thursday; and another into the financial crisis and the multi-billion bank bail-out using European Union funds, which forced taxes up for residents and led to spending cuts in social programmes.

The latter will go live after Easter.

Treasurer of the PP at national level between 2008 and 2009, Luis Bárcenas, spent 19 months in custody pending trial over alleged cash bribes taken from companies in exchange for lucrative public works contracts – money which was distributed in envelopes to top-flight PP members – and the so called Caja B, or underground accounting system, turned out to have involved his predecessors in the role.

It led to the discovery of major renovations on the PP’s headquarters in Madrid’s C/ Génova having been paid in undeclared cash, and when the complex case hit the headlines and the prosecution demanded possession of Bárcenas’ computers, it was found that one of the hard-drives had been wiped clean.

All bar one of the PP’s treasurers at national level has been charged with corruption-related offences – five out of six – even the current treasurer Carmen Navarro, who was called to testify in court a month ago.

In addition to Bárcenas, Álvaro Lapuerta – treasurer between 1993 and 2008; Ángel Sanchís, who held the role between 1982 and 1987 for what was then the Alianza Popular (‘People’s Alliance’), and Sanchís’ successor Rosendo Naseiro have all been investigated.

Lapuerta is thought to be linked to the Bárcenas case; Sanchís is suspected of helping Bárcenas hide his fortune amassed through a linked corruption trial, the Gürtel case and is charged with money-

laundering; whilst Naseiro was tried for illegal political party financing, bribery and vote-buying.
Navarro is under investigation for document forgery, linked to the formatting of Bárcenas’ hard drive.

The only treasurer of the PP who has not been investigated is José Manuel Romay Beccaría, who replaced Bárcenas in 2010 and held the role until 2012 when he took on the job of presiding the Council of State, and Navarro became treasurer in his place.

Published Think Spain11 March 2017

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