MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s High Court said on Thursday six people would go on trial after a long investigation into an alleged slush fund run within the governing People’s Party (PP), including two former party treasurers.
The trial of the six, on charges including organised crime, falsifying accounts, influence-peddling and tax crimes, is expected to begin before the end of the year.
The case is a major embarrassment for the party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which faces a general election expected at the end of the year and is trying to clean up its image.
“A slush fund at the People’s Party operated from at least 1990 up to 2008, fed by the donations and contributions of people linked to ... the beneficiaries of important public contracts, and not reflected in the party’s official accounts,” a 100-page court order said.
Charges against former treasurers Luis Barcenas and Alvaro Lapuerta had already been announced. Thursday’s court order confirmed the case would go to trial.
Barcenas was in jail awaiting charges from June 2013 to January this year, when he posted bail of 200,000 euros.
The court said the PP could be liable to pay the tax office more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) if the accused were found guilty but could not pay up.
The PP lost 2.5 million votes in last weekend’s municipal and regional polls, as the electorate opted for new parties such as Podemos and Ciudadanos which have focused on cleaning up politics and redressing inequality.
Those to go on trial face several years in jail if found guilty.
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; editing by Sonya Dowsett and Andrew Roche