• Madrid: the former treasurer in Spain's ruling party hid up to €22 million in a Swiss bank account (Photo: PromoMadrid/Max Alexander)

Top Spanish official in graft scandal

21.01.13 @ 09:29

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
  2. Nikolaj email
  3. Nikolaj Twitter

BRUSSELS - A former treasurer of Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP) hid away his wealth in a Swiss bank account.

Court documents from an on-going judicial investigation into former PP treasurer Luis Barcenas revealed the account held up to €22 million, reports Reuters.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday (19 January) said he would crack down on corruption after the documents had been released.

“I will not waiver against inappropriate conduct,” said Rajoy.

The party, along with the opposition socialists, has helped govern the nation for the past three decades. In 2011, the conservatives won the general elections and unseated the socialists.

Barcenas was the People's Party financial chief for 28 years until 2009 when he became the focal point of an investigation for allegedly accepting bribes from businesses vying for lucrative government contracts.

The revelations come at a sensitive moment as the ruling party is losing the confidence of its electorate.

Support for the country's top leadership is at a new low, according to a Metroscopia survey published in El Pais on 13 January. Over 80 percent polled have either little or no confidence in Rajoy's stewardship.

Meanwhile, cuts in spending on education, welfare, pensions and health care have affected the weakest.

A drop in real wages means those working are still living within poverty’s grasp.

Spain’s in-work poverty rate has steadily increased since 2005 and now stands at 11.5 percent. Only Romania and Greece fare worse, says the European Commission.

Around 57 percent of under-25s are unemployed and have been dubbed “the lost generation”.

Tens of thousands of Spanish pensioners last December also saw their savings disappear over night after Bankia posted record losses.

The bank then received an €18 billion EU bailout but none went to recover the pensioners’ savings.

Despite the sizeable unemployment rates, a banking sector that received some €100 billion over the summer, and an 8 percent budget deficit of GDP, ministers in Madrid expect growth to return later this year.

But corruption antics as those alleged of Barcenas is unlikely to please the party’s support base.

The commission estimates that up to 25 percent of a public contracts’ value is lost due to corruption in public procurement.

The health care sector alone eats up an estimated €56 billion annually of public money throughout the Union due to kick-backs and bribes.