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Bárcenas in the dock
thinkSPAIN , Monday, February 25, 2013

FORMER treasurer and senator of the PP Luis Bárcenas was due to appear in court today at 13.00hrs to testify in respect of the multi-million accounts he held in Switzerland.

Having already been in the dock on Wednesday, February 6 in connection with the alleged 'off the books' payments to members of his party over the course of 10 years, Bárcenas will now face questioning for his tax-haven bank accounts discovered after Swiss authorities found eight-figure funds in his name at Dresdner bank.

Bárcenas has tried to explain away the 22 million euros stashed in two Swiss banks as being the proceeds of two estate agency businesses he was involved with and the sale of works of art – but neither the police nor the prosecution service believe this.

According to the ad hoc commission brought together by authorities in Switzerland, a total of 14.8 million euros in the name of the Panamá-based Sinéquanon Foundation was held by the ex-senator in a Swiss bank and uncovered at the end of 2005.

This amount reportedly increased to 19.7 million euros in 2006 and to 22.1 million in 2007, before falling to 13.6 million in 2008 and 11.8 million in 2009.

Last week, the judge in charge of the case received reports from the police and the tax authorities relating to these funds, together with a Spanish translation of the bank information supplied by the Swiss authorities.

Documentation has also been presented to the court concerning Bárcenas' authority and that of his predecessor as treasurer Álvaro Lapuerta to handle funds in the accounts between 1994 and 2009, and reflecting in detail the names of donors and recipients of the money – names which included top-flight PP members.

These reports claim that the former treasurer 'designed a strategy for protecting his assets abroad from possible court intervention' after he was implicated in the Gürtel corruption and money-laundering case in February 2009.

Depending upon the outcome of today's case, Bárcenas could face restriction measures such as a ban on leaving Spain, a wrist-band allowing his whereabouts to be tracked by authorities, or the embargo of his assets.

Back in 2009, Bárcenas was thought to be involved in the Gürtel case and was charged, but the High Court of Justice in Madrid dropped the charges in September 2011.

But when the case was passed back to the National Court, the judge there, Pablo Ruz, reapplied the charges to the ex-treasurer and ordered the creation of the ad hoc commission in Switzerland.

In September 2012, the former senator was called to testify in relation to an alleged tax fraud in which his wife was under investigation for reportedly failing to declare her capital gains earned from the sale of various paintings.

The 'cash-in-hand' wage top-up case for PP members is being treated as a separate issue at present.

During his preliminary hearing for the same on February 6, Bárcenas denied the existence of any 'hidden' account records.

He claimed the handwritten ledgers found and published in the national press were not in his writing and that he had never seen them before.

Bárcenas agreed to take a handwriting test to prove this, although experts say the results will show whether or not the ledgers were in his hand but not how long ago they were written.

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