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Spain's attorney says PM Rajoy could be quizzed

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[February 01, 2013]  MADRID (AP) -- Spain's state attorney says there is sufficient cause to investigate fresh allegations of irregular financing of Spain's governing Popular Party and that if necessary Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would be called in for questioning.

Eduardo Torres-Dulce was responding to publication by leading newspaper El Pais of the so-called secret papers of former party treasurer Luis Barcenas, allegedly documenting payments of under-the-table money to leading members, including Rajoy, over many years. The money was allegedly paid by businesses, many in the construction sector.

El Pais, reporting on the allegations for a second day on Friday, said nearly two thirds of the payments violated Spain's old party financing law.

Speaking on 13TV television late Thursday, Torres-Dulce said a decision on opening a fresh investigation or possibly incorporating the allegations into one already under way will be taken within days.

The Popular Party denies the documents have any connection with the party. Secretary general Maria Dolores de Cospedal, one of the alleged recipients, said Thursday "we have absolutely nothing to hide."

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria was expected to be quizzed on the scandal later Friday after a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Opposition parties have demanded Rajoy break his silence of recent days with some even calling for his resignation and elections.

Last week Rajoy said he would deal firmly with anyone found to have accepted backhanders.

The Popular Party has called a special executive committee meeting for Saturday. Rajoy may speak after that, otherwise his next meeting with the press will be Monday in Berlin after he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The scandal broke when the National Court reported recently that Barcenas amassed an unexplained euro 22 million ($30 million) in a Swiss bank account several years ago.

Barcenas, who served in the party's treasury for 20 years, resigned in 2009 after he was named in a National Court probe into alleged irregular financing practices by the party.

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His lawyer denies the Swiss account money was illegally obtained or linked to party.

The lists published by El Pais include the names of former ministers Angel Acebes, Javier Arenas and Francisco Alvarez Cascos. The paper said the documents showed that as of 1997 Rajoy received some euro 25,000 each year.

The paper said each of the party members listed and the businesses named denied receiving or making the payments shown.

Many of the payments occurred during Spain's boom years of the late 1990s when the Popular Party was in power and the construction industry made the country one of the most successful economies in the European Union.

The corruption scandal is the latest to rock Spain, with dozens of other cases involving bankers, politicians, town councilors and even the royal family. But this one has shocked people more given that Rajoy and his party are demanding enormous sacrifices of Spaniards as the country battles recession and 25 percent unemployment.

[Associated Press; By CIARAN GILES]

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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