Spain's PM called as witness in slush fund trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2017 7:21 AM

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been called to stand as a witness in a trial of members of his ruling People's Party (PP) following a long investigation into an alleged party slush fund, a court spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The appearance, on a date yet to be decided, will be embarrassing for Rajoy, who has sought to distance himself from a string of corruption scandals surrounding his party.

Rajoy heads a minority government, having lost support to newcomer parties in a general election last year where Spaniards' weariness with perceived institutional corruption played a major role.

The long-running investigation into kickbacks-for-contracts, known as the Gurtel case, went to trial in October after a probe lasting nearly a decade, with dozens of suspects including business people and PP members in the dock.

The PP denies any senior party officials were involved in any cases of alleged corruption. It says only a tiny number of its politicians are corrupt and that it is tackling the problem.

The court is at present trying PP members including the former party treasurer, Luis Barcenas, on charges of organised crime, falsifying accounts, influence-peddling and tax crimes.

The complex, multi-stranded trial has already seen prison sentences handed down to three businessmen in February for their roles in a kickback scheme. The trial is ongoing.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)