Operation “Kitchen”, an illegal police spinning aimed at obtaining evidence of secret funding of the popular party, caused a scandal in Spain.
An “informant” paid out of state funds to spy on a former cacique of the ruling party holding compromising secrets: the Spanish right-wing opposition is caught by a case worthy of a thriller that can splash even a former Prime minister.
On the front page of the Spanish press since the prosecution declassified a 52-page document last week, this case is called “Kitchen” from the name of the illegal police operation targeted and so baptized in reference to the code name of the informant, “cook”.
Driver of Luis Barcenas, the former treasurer of the Popular Party (PP), he had been recruited to “obtain (…) concrete information on the place in which Luis Barcenas and his wife would hide compromising documentation for this political party and its senior leaders, ”said the prosecution.
Barcenas was then at the center of the investigation into the “Gürtel” affair, an illegal financing scandal via the manipulation of public contracts in which the PP ended up being condemned in May 2018, which resulted in just a few days more late the overthrow of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy by parliament.
In exchange for his services, Luis Barcenas’ driver received 2000 euros per month from the “reserved funds” of the State and had received the promise to join the police.
The investigation into Operation Kitchen is one of the many cases opened by the courts on the basis of searches carried out after the arrest in 2017 of Commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, known for having recorded without their knowledge for years many personalities political or economic.
Two former ministers targeted
Justice is particularly interested in the roles of the former Minister of the Interior of Rajoy, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, against whom the prosecution claims to have “very numerous and conclusive” clues, and of the former Minister of Defense, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, herself “affected by alleged compromising documents”.
But “Kitchen” could splash up to Mariano Rajoy, while a conversation on file between Commissioner Villarejo and the informant suggests that Barcenas also had compromising documents for the former Prime Minister.
The magistrates can count on the collaboration of a repentant, Francisco Martinez Vazquez, number two of the Ministry of the Interior at the time of the facts. Indicted in this case, he assured Sunday in the daily The country wanting to “tell the judge everything (he knows)”.
According to the prosecution, he has already certified before a notary the messages exchanged with Jorge Fernandez Diaz showing that the latter was aware of the operation.
“My biggest mistake in the ministry was to be loyal to miserable people like Jorge (Fernandez Diaz), Rajoy or Cospedal”, he said, moreover, in another message appearing in the document of the prosecution.
This affair comes at the worst time for the PP, defeated by the left in the last two legislative elections and competing with the rise of an extreme right party, Vox.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party, which came to power thanks to the motion of censure against Mariano Rajoy, and his radical left ally Podemos have called for the creation of a parliamentary inquiry into the “Kitchen” affair.
“This diverts attention at a time when the PP wanted to bring unity to the right and focus its criticism on the management of the pandemic and the economy by the government, which has difficult months ahead of it,” said Antonio Barroso , analyst at the consulting firm Teneo.
Take this distance
This party also finds itself facing its old demons, while “corruption was the subject that led PP voters to leave for Vox or Ciudadanos”, he said again.
The young leader of the PP, Pablo Casado (39), is trying somehow to distance himself from the scandals of the past.
“I am not here to protect party companions” and “will fall who must fall”, he assured Monday on Cope radio, while ensuring not to be “worried for the moment”.
Pablo Casado had already taken care last week to recall that at the material time, he had “no responsibility within the party”.