Global Independent Analytics

Spanish minister resigns in row over alleged offshore links

José Manuel Soria unsuccessfully denied any wrongdoing after he was named in Panama Papers over connection with Bahamas firm

Stephen Burgen for The Guardian reports: Spain’s industry, energy and tourism minister has resigned with immediate effect after alleged links to offshore dealings emerged in the Panama Papers. José Manuel Soria denied any wrongdoing and said he was stepping down to limit any damage to the conservative People’s party (PP) caretaker government, which has been in place since inconclusive national elections in December.

After he and his brothers had been named as administrators in the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and its sister company in Jersey, Soria denied being linked to any dealings of the offshore companies. However, separate media reports revealed later that he had been a president of the UK Lines company, an offshore company that dealt in agricultural produce from the Canary Islands, where he was the local PP leader.

Soria finally decided to step down after a Jersey Mechanical document from 2002 with his signature on it was publicly disclosed, making him incapable of denying any longer. In his letter of resignation, he wrote: “In the light of the errors committed in recent days in the explanations I gave regarding my business activities before I entered politics in 1995 and the lack of precise information about things that occurred more than 20 years ago … I have informed the [prime minister] of my irrevocable decision to resign.” Soria said he would abandon all political activities.

The infamous Panama Papers have already embarrassed several world leaders by uncovering the shadowy world of offshore companies providing tax havens. A week before Iceland’s PM had to resign as well after his links to Mossack Fonseca were revealed.

 “Soria’s resignation is another blow to Mariano Rajoy’s government, which has been ruling Spain in a caretaker capacity due to the failure of the four largest parties to reach a coalition agreement. Fresh elections will be held in June if no coalition deal can be agreed in the coming weeks,” continues Burgen.

The resignation tops the week’s series of retributions that have already hit Spanish lawmakers. The former PM José María Aznar was demanded to pay a fee of €270,000 after allegedly trying to pay his personal income to family business; the same day the PP mayor of Granada was arrested on corruption charges.

Burgen concludes: “Ministerial resignations are rare in Spain and Soria’s was only the second since the PP came to power in 2011. In November 2014 the then health minister Ana Mato was forced to step down over corruption investigations.”

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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