February 18, 2015 / 7:39 PM / in 3 years

Judge probing corruption in Spain's ruling party loses key documents

MADRID (Reuters) - A judge investigating how computer files were erased at Spain’s ruling party headquarters just as a corruption scandal erupted has misplaced the documents, the Madrid regional court said on Wednesday.

Luis Barcenas, former treasurer of Spain's ruling People's Party (PP), leaves the High Court, where he is required to check in three times per week, in central Madrid February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Juan Medina

The Madrid High Court had initially rejected a complaint brought by opposition parties in 2013 accusing the People’s Party of covering up illegal party financing by destroying evidence on the computer of its former treasurer, Luis Barcenas.

But they subsequently won an appeal for the case to go ahead. Months later, the court cannot now find the lawsuit documents, it said in a statement.

“The (lawsuit documents) have disappeared for reasons that are being investigated,” it said.

Widespread anger over corruption cases in political and business circles during a deep economic crisis has transformed Spanish politics. New parties are building on that anger ahead of what looks likely to be a close general election, expected before the end of the year..

Barcenas is separately awaiting trial on charges of money-laundering and the computer had been wiped clean when police came to confiscate it after his arrest.

He has testified to running a slush fund for the PP via though which businesses allegedly passed cash to party leaders, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Rajoy and other senior PP members deny wrongdoing and have not become targets of an investigation.

Barcenas, the PP’s treasurer for almost three decades, has testified that the computer contained original information on cash payments made to party members and illegal party donations from businesses.

Madrid’s High Court has asked the parties involved to provide new documents so as to reconstruct the case.

Reporting By Emma Pinedo; Writing by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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