The corruption scandal currently hitting Spain’s Popular Party (PP) was reported in local media yesterday to contain a “South American connection” in Argentina, as its former party treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, who was discovered to hold a Swiss bank account with a balance of 22.4 million euros, was alleged to have diverted “a large part” of the sum to investments in La Moraleja, a lemon-growing farm in the province of Salta.
According to Spanish daily El Mundo, Bárcenas is also considered to have devised the under-the-table monthly payment of between 5,000 and 15,000 euros for middle and top-ranking officials of the PP, which was obtained through illegal deals with construction and security firms.
Bárcenas and his wife are alleged to have invested unexplained capital in La Moraleja, which is owned by Ángel Sanchís Perales, another former PP treasurer who settled in Argentina, developing the 30,000-hectare citrus and soy farm in Salta.
Sanchís Perales, who was Bárcenas’ mentor, relocated to Argentina after being acquitted in a case over financial irregularities in the PP in 1988, then known as Alianza Popular (AP).
The indicted former official is alleged to have resorted to investing in La Moraleja in order to “camouflage” the money he held in Switzerland after reportedly having been pressured to justify its origins by Dresdner Bank, to whom he claimed the funds came from the purchase and sale of works of art.
La Moraleja, which predominantly exports to the European Union, is reported by Spanish daily El País to be the sixth-largest producer of lemons in the country, with 1,700 employees, while Sanchís Perales possesses a fortune of 50 million euros.
The case, along with the under-the-table payments corruption scandal, has led the PSOE Spanish socialist opposition to announce it will begin legal proceedings so that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the party be held accountable, despite the government announcement for an external audit in a bid to quell anxieties.