By James Bryce

SPAIN’S prime minister Mariano Rajoy has ordered an ‘exhaustive’ audit of the PP party’s accounts amid claims that top officials received illegal cash payments.

Party leaders are alleged to have been handed ‘cash-stuffed envelopes’ as bonus payments from a €22 million slush fund controlled by former PP treasurers.

The allegations stretch back to the 1990s and implicate former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and even Rajoy himself.

The money was allegedly handed out by former treasurers Alvaro Lapuerta and Luis Barcenas, with the latter under investigation for alleged money laundering and tax evasion.

The first audit will be conducted by party treasurer Carmen Navarro before being handed over to an independent firm, Rajoy told the National Executive Committee.

“We will turn every piece of paper over if we have to,” said PP secretary general Maria Dolores de Cospedal.

She added: “If we have to review the party’s finances 1,001 times we will do so, but our accounting is clean.”

Until 2007, political parties could receive anonymous donations, although the amount was not allowed to exceed 5% of the annual funding parties received from the state.

Socialist party leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, whose party banned the practice, announced he will file a criminal complaint against the PP for allowing the payments.

He has called for a parliamentary investigation into the practice after former PP congressman Jorge Trias Sagnier acknowledged its existence.

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