Spain ruling party's ex-treasurer jailed after graft sentence

Madrid (AFP) –


The former treasurer of Spain's ruling Popular Party (PP) was sent straight to jail Monday pending a possible appeal against his 33-year prison sentence in a graft trial that has sparked a no-confidence vote against the prime minister.

Luis Barcenas was sentenced earlier this month to 33 years and four months in prison and fined 44 million euros ($51 million) for his role in a vast system of bribes given to former PP officials or lawmakers in exchange for juicy contracts.

Barcenas, who was the PP's treasurer between 2008 and 2009, was accused of being in charge of a party slush fund and suspected of having hidden millions of euros in Switzerland.

The trial, which saw a total of 29 former officials, businessmen and their spouses jailed, is just one of many corruption scandals to have hit Rajoy's PP over the years, prompting the parliamentary no-confidence vote due at the end of the week.

Spain's National Court, which deals with major criminal cases, said Monday it had sent Barcenas straight to prison instead of bailing him pending a possible appeal.

Guillermo Ortega, the former PP mayor of Majadahonda near Madrid who was sentenced to 38 years and three months in prison was also jailed immediately, as was a former PP regional minister.

The National Court will decide on the fate of 15 others on Wednesday.

Judges also found that the PP itself had benefitted from illegally obtained funds although the party was not on trial for direct involvement in the scheme. The PP was ordered to pay back 245,000 euros.

The court also confirmed the existence of a "slush fund" within the PP which is the subject of another pending trial.

All of this put together prompted the opposition Socialists to file a no-confidence motion against Rajoy on Friday.

The parliamentary debate and vote will take place on Thursday and Friday.

To succeed, the motion will need the support of an absolute majority of 176 lawmakers, a difficult task as the opposition parties are deeply divided.