Jan. 31 - Spain's ruling People's Party has denied that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other leaders received payments from a slush fund after a newspaper published what it said were secret party accounts. Ciara Sutton reports.
He was elected in a landslide with a mandate to sort out Spain's deeply troubled economy. But Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been forced to deny allegations in a leading newspaper that he took secret payments from business donors. Maria Dolores de Cospedal is Secretary General of the People's Party. (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) MARIA DOLORES DE COSPEDAL, SECRETARY GENERAL OF SPAIN'S PEOPLE'S PARTY: "This party categorically denies the content of those alleged documents that have been published. We categorically deny it in all its terms. I have spoken to the Prime Minister this morning as you'd expect and I have to say that he is very calm. He is doing what he has to do. That means he is doing his job as Prime Minister to help our country to get out of the crisis." The El Pais newspaper printed images of handwritten accounts, nearly 20 years old, that it claims were maintained by People's Party treasurers. It says they show 11 years of payments to Rajoy of over 25,000 euros a year. But Rajoy's office says the prime minister stands by these comments he made about the allegations over a week ago. SOUNDBITE: SPANISH PRIME MINISTER MARIANO RAJOY SAYING (Spanish): "I can only say that if at any point I am aware of irregular or inappropriate conduct related to members of our party, I will not waiver, I will not waiver, because I know it's one of my responsibilities and not the least to make sure the People's Party continues to behave and continues to be perceived as a great party comprised of honest people, working and dedicated to the improvement of the lives of people in their country." Spain is in deep recession, with one in four people out of work. For the first time Rajoy's has promised Spain a small dose of economic stimulus, in the midst of a strict diet of austerity. Justin Urquhart Stewart is from Seven Investment Management. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARKETING DIRECTOR AT SEVEN INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART, SAYING: "They had been making quite considerable progress both in terms of productivity and in terms of closing the deficit. But none the less it is still very difficult indeed particularly with some of the news coming out about the banks and the property issues." A high court judge has reportedly asked prosecutors to look into the allegations. The People's Party has ordered an external audit of its accounts.