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Spanish ruling party says funding allegations 'nonsense'

A police van believed to be carrying Luis Barcenas, former treasurer for the ruling People's Party, leaves the High Court in Madrid, June 27
A police van believed to be carrying Luis Barcenas, former treasurer for the ruling People's Party, leaves the High Court in Madrid, June 27

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's ruling People's Party on Monday denied allegations by its former treasurer it had funded itself illegally through bribes for at least 20 years and insisted its accounts were transparent and sound.

Luis Barcenas, the central figure in two party graft cases, told El Mundo newspaper the PP had received kickbacks from construction magnates in return for contracts in regions governed by the party.

Barcenas is already in custody pending a trial on charges of money laundering, bribery, tax fraud and other crimes in an investigation into a group of businessmen suspected of funding campaign rallies for the PP in exchange for kickbacks.

In a separate case, he is also under investigation accused of running a PP slush fund that took donations from companies and distributed them to party leaders in cash.

In the interview published on Sunday but conducted before he was detained, Barcenas also said handwritten accounts purporting to record movements of cash in and out of a secret fund - published this year by El Pais newspaper - were genuine and represented only a fraction of the documents he had detailing the illegal financing of the party.

Prime Minister Rajoy, former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and other top PP officials whose names appear in the documents have repeatedly denied receiving illegal payments.

Such corruption scandals have crushed faith in Spain's two major parties and angered Spaniards suffering a long recession marked by high unemployment, spending cuts and tax hikes.

The PP said on Monday that Barcenas' allegations were unfounded and that the party's lawyers were studying the possibility of starting new legal action against him.

"Lies are never based on supporting documents ... This is absolutely wrong, absolutely wrong. This is an absolute nonsense," the PP's secretary general Maria Dolores de Cospedal told journalists at a news briefing.

"The PP accounts are clear, impeccable, they have always been audited by the court of auditors and always received its approval," she added.

Nobody could be reached to comment on behalf of Barcenas. His lawyers said they had parted company with him and it was not clear who would now defend him.

(Reporting by Julien Toyer; Editing by Alison Williams)

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