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Prime Minister in Spain refuses to resign

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has ruled out resignation over a corruption scandal. A once-trusted aide has testified in court on financial malpractice charges.

A High Court judge questioned former ruling People's Party (PP) treasurer Luis Barcenas for more than three hours on Monday after he was transported from jail in a white van.

Barcenas, 55, was jailed in June and charged with bribery, money laundering, tax fraud and other crimes. Spain's National Court found he had accumulated some 47 million euros ($61 million) in secret Swiss bank accounts.

Prime Minister Rajoy has been questioned by the media over allegations that he received secret payments when he was a minister in a previous government during the late 1990s. Opposition leaders called on Rajoy to step down on Sunday but Rajoy has refused to do so.

"I will fulfill the mandate the Spanish people gave me," Rajoy told reporters on Monday.

A lawyer involved with the case told the Reuters news agency that Barcenas was expected to turn over documents showing how he ran a secret slush fund at the party for many years.

The newspaper and website El Mundo said last week the documents showed Rajoy received at least 42,000 euros in payments while serving as a minister between 1997 and 1999.

The allegedly illegal donations by construction magnates were supposedly distributed as cash payments to party leaders in return for profitable contracts.

However, the PP has denied any wrongdoing: "The Popular Party has nothing to fear, our books are clean," Carlos Floriano, the party's deputy national organizer, said on Monday. "It's Barcenas who is in jail and it's up to him to explain where he got the money in Switzerland from," he said.

Barcenas had previously claimed the money came from private business deals. But last week El Mundo cited him as saying the Popular Party has long been illegally funded.

jm/mz (Reuters, AP)