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Rita Barbera Graft-tainted Spanish politician dies

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has praised Barbera in the past, said he was "greatly distressed" by her death.

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Rita Barbera play

Rita Barbera

(AFP/File)

Veteran Spanish politician Rita Barbera, a prominent figure from Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party who was under investigation for alleged money laundering, died Wednesday at a Madrid hotel, emergency services said.

An ambulance was called to the Villa Real hotel in front of parliament after Barbera, 68, a senator in Spain's upper house of parliament, fell ill, an emergency services spokesman said.

"The medical team carried out cardiopulmonary resuscitation for over 30 minutes but finally were only able to confirm her death," the spokesman added.

Barbera appeared for questioning on Monday at Spain's Supreme Court in connection with an investigation into an alleged irregular party financing scheme in the eastern city of Valencia, where she served as mayor for 24 years. She denied any wrongdoing.

"I am an honourable person, I am not corrupt, neither economically nor morally," Barbera said in February, adding she felt "boundless pain" because of the suspicions raised about her.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has praised Barbera in the past, said he was "greatly distressed" by her death.

"She dedicated her life to the Popular Party," he added as he entered parliament.

Barbera renounced her membership in the Popular Party in September after she was put under investigation.

But said she would stay on in the Senate as an independent, a move which protected her from being tried by any tribunal lower than the Supreme Court.

MPs from far-left party Unidos Podemos boycotted a minute of silence observed in parliament in honour of Barbera.

"We are not going to take part in a tribute to someone whose path was marked by corruption," the party's leader, Pablo Iglesias, told reporters.

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