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Central figure in Spain corruption scandal appears in court

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

* Graft scandals deepen public's anger over spending cuts

* Former People's Party treasurer in closed-door hearing

* Revelations about Barcenas severance pay embarrass Rajoy

* Barcenas charged with bribery, money laundering, tax fraud

MADRID, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The former treasurer of Spain's ruling party, at the heart of a corruption scandal that has politically damaged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, appeared in court for questioning on Monday about millions of euros he deposited in Swiss accounts.

Luis Barcenas is charged with using his position to take bribes, evade taxes by hiding the proceeds in Switzerland and launder money through shell companies, charges that carry prison sentences of up to six years and fines.

The long-running High Court investigation of Barcenas and a graft case involving the son-in-law of Spain's king have enraged Spaniards at a time when deep recession has pushed unemployment to 26 percent and the government has slashed public spending.

Barcenas got out of a car outside the courthouse and entered the building in central Madrid at 12:20 p.m. (1120 GMT) for the closed-door hearing. He did not speak to the dozens of journalists outside.

Prosecutors asked High Court Examining Magistrate Pablo Ruz to put Barcenas, 55, on bail and restrict his movements. Barcenas, an avid mountaineer who once scaled Everest, went skiing in Canada two weeks ago, according to media reports.

Barcenas's lawyer declined to comment on those reports.

In Spain's legal system, lengthy pre-trial investigations are carried out by examining magistrates such as Ruz. A trial could still be months or years away for Barcenas.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130225/central-figure-spain-corruption-scandal-appears-court