Next Domino: Spain, As Main Suspect In Rajoy Graft Scandal Has Passport Confiscated
While today's attention was focused on the austerity-crushing defeat of Monti in Italy and the pre-supposition that the ECB being able to use its OMT promise against an ill-disciplined nation fades; there is another super-cell of destruction wending its way towards Berlin (and Brussels). At the perfect time for such things, Reuters reports that the man at the center of Spanish PM Rajoy's political scandal, Luis Barcenas, has been banned from leaving Spain, had his passport revoked, and ordered to report to court twice a month. The millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts that investigators found that he had deposited and the linkages to Spain's royalty in the so-called 'graft' case are not playing well with the population as unemployment surges above 26%. Judged as a serious flight risk, the high court judge ordered the steps after finding out he was skiing in Canada two weeks ago (where they suspect funds were also transferred). One protester complained, "They are lying to us, and worse than that, scorning us... Enough is enough, we need some accountability."
A former treasurer of Spain's ruling party, at the heart of a corruption scandal that has hurt Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, was ordered to surrender his passport on Monday while judges investigate millions of euros he deposited in Swiss banks.
Luis Barcenas is accused of using his position to take bribes, evade taxes by hiding the proceeds in Switzerland and launder money through shell companies, charges that carry prison sentences of up to six years and fines.
The long-running High Court investigation of Barcenas and a graft case involving the son-in-law of Spain's king have enraged Spaniards at a time when deep recession has pushed unemployment to 26 percent and the government has slashed public spending.
After three hours of questioning Barcenas in a closed-door court hearing, High Court examining judge Pablo Ruz ordered steps be taken to restrict the suspect's movements as there was "a serious risk" he might attempt to flee.
Ruz banned Barcenas from leaving Spain, seized his passport and ordered him to report to a court twice a month.
Barcenas, 55, an avid mountaineer who once scaled Everest, went skiing in Canada two weeks ago, according to media reports. Some of these reports said the police suspected he also used the ski trip to move funds he holds there.
Then, El Pais newspaper published extracts from what it said were secret PP account books that Barcenas kept for almost 20 years, showing cash donations from construction magnates that were distributed to Rajoy and other party leaders.
Barcenas says the money in the Swiss accounts is from legitimate business activities, but Ruz's investigation has cast doubt on that defence,
Rajoy has denied any wrongdoing, either personal or by the party.
The Barcenas scandal has soured a public mood already bitter over joblessness, cuts to education, health spending and public sector wages, and the 40 billion euros in public funds spent on rescuing failed banks.
"They are lying to us, and worse than that, scorning us... Enough is enough, we need some accountability," said Ana, 59, a civil servant from Madrid who declined to give her last name.
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