Madrid.—Swiss authorities have opened a money laundering investigation into a former treasurer of Spain's ruling party suspected of depositing millions of euros from bribes in Swiss bank accounts, the Geneva prosecutor handling the case said yesterday.

Luis Barcenas, accused by Spanish authorities of abusing his position to secure bribes, evading taxes and laundering money is at the heart of a growing corruption scandal that has hurt the centre right Partido Popular's and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Spanish court proceedings indicate that Barcenas held up to 38 million euros in Swiss bank accounts.
Confiscate money “If the suspicions of money laundering are confirmed, if bribes were paid, we will confiscate the money and then we will discuss (with Spain) what happens to it,” said prosecutor Jean-Bernard Schmid in a telephone interview.

He added the investigation would focus on examining the bank accounts in more detail and checking the origins of the funds.
Barcenas, a mountaineer who once scaled Everest, is also part of a second Spanish corruption investigation involving a secret ledger of cash donations from construction magnates that was purportedly redistributed to party officials.

The probes have enraged Spaniards at a time when deep recession has pushed unemployment to 26 percent and the government has slashed public spending. He has denied any wrongdoing, saying the ledger was forged and that the money in Switzerland was obtained from legitimate business activities.

Schmid said Swiss authorities would check to ensure the banks concerned in the case had complied with Swiss laws which require them to take additional measures to determine the source of funds held by so-called Politically Exposed Persons, or PEPs. “The bank is supposed to pay attention (with PEPs) so we will see if this was done properly and if flags should have been raised and more research done,” he added.

Documents from the evidence file of the Spanish examining magistrate seen by Reuters have shown that Barcenas held deposits in Dresdner Bank, since acquired by Liechtenstein's top bank LGT. “As far as LGT is concerned, we have always complied with the relevant laws and cooperated with the competent authorities,” said a spokesperson for the bank yesterday.

Swiss broadcaster RTS reported on Friday that Barcenas also held an account with Geneva private bank Lombard Odier.
Lombard Odier did not immediately respond to a request for comment.