Spain's governing conservative party on Thursday
defended itself in a widening corruption scandal, after the
publication of alleged internal documents that indicate its leaders
received hidden payments over nearly two decades.
The daily El Pais said it had accessed the "secret" accounting papers that list payments to People's Party (PP) leaders, including current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, between 1990 and 2009.
Rajoy is shown to have received 25,200 euros (34,000 dollars) annually for 11 years, before becoming premier in 2011. Three previous PP leaders received comparable amounts.
The PP denied the report, saying it did not have "hidden accounting" and that its leaders had always been paid legally and had paid their taxes.
The newspaper said the documents were written under treasurers Alvaro Lapuerta and Luis Barcenas.
Barcenas, who managed the party's finances from 2008 to 2009, reportedly had 22 million euros (28.6 million dollars) in 2007 in a Swiss bank account.
He is being investigated by the judiciary in connection with the so-called Guertel corruption network, which allegedly involved dozens of lower-level PP politicians and entrepreneurs.
The documents show PP Secretary-General Dolores de Cospedal and two former deputy secretaries-general, including former International Monetary Fund managing director Rodrigo Rato, to have been among the recipients of payments.
The money came from entrepreneurs, including three who have been implicated in the Guertel scandal. The documents also indicate that some of the money went into financing the PP.
The PP has announced an audit of its accounts following the Barcenas scandal.
Rajoy told El Pais he would not comment on the documents until the audit was finished. Cospedal and five former party leaders denied having received illicit money.
Soraya Rodriguez from the main opposition Socialist Party described the accusations against the PP as "very serious," while far-left representative Cayo Lara spoke of "a bomb" within the PP.
The affair raised concern about the solidity of the Rajoy government just as Spain is facing a deep economic crisis.
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