Spanish ruling party's ex-treasurer granted bail in fraud probe

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 20, 2015 6:31 AM

By Rodrigo De Miguel

MADRID (Reuters) - The former treasurer of Spain's ruling People's Party (PP), in jail awaiting trial on charges of money-laundering and other crimes, has been granted provisional liberty with a bail of 200,000 euros ($231,820), a High Court spokeswoman said.

Luis Barcenas has been in jail since June 2013 over a long-running corruption investigation which is a source of great embarrassment to the PP, struggling in opinion polls in an election year.

If he pays the bail and leaves prison, he must report to the courts three times a week and will have his passport confiscated, preventing him from leaving the country, court documents showed.

Barcenas stashed up to 48 million euros in Swiss banks, according to court documents, and has admitted to running a slush fund for the PP by which cash donations from business magnates were distributed among party leaders.

He has denied building a personal fortune from the fund he oversaw, saying that the money in the Swiss bank account came from art dealing and other investments.

Spain's anti-corruption prosecutor called for a 42-and-a-half year prison sentence for Barcenas for six crimes including fraud, bribery, money laundering, falsification of documents and embezzlement, a court source said on Friday.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other PP leaders have denied wrongdoing and have not become direct targets of the investigation carried out by examining magistrate, Judge Pablo Ruz.

Barcenas left the party in 2009, when he was first put under criminal investigation but continued to receive severance pay on an installment plan until early 2013.

($1 = 0.8627 euros)

(Writing By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Angus MacSwan)