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Pressure Mounts on Spanish Prime Minister as Wife Faces Corruption Investigation

This development added to Sánchez's woes, with his administration already grappling with the fallout from a separate graft scandal involving the procurement of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Pavitra Shetty

Published on April 26, 2024, 16:15:59

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spain prime minister, pedro sanchez, spain prime minister wife, corruption

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez found himself in a tight spot as questions mounted following a court's decision to launch an inquiry into his wife, Begoña Gómez, over suspected corruption.

This development added to Sánchez's woes, with his administration already grappling with the fallout from a separate graft scandal involving the procurement of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court's announcement came shortly after reports emerged alleging Gómez's involvement with various private companies that either received government funds or secured public contracts. The revelation triggered a furious response from the opposition Popular Party (PP), which has persistently criticised Sánchez over his wife's purported business connections.

In a terse statement, the Madrid court disclosed that it had initiated an investigation into Begoña Gómez for alleged influence peddling and corruption, emphasising that the probe was subject to a confidentiality order. The case was prompted by a complaint filed by Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), an anti-corruption advocacy group associated with the far-right.

One aspect under scrutiny is Gómez's alleged ties to Globalia, a Spanish tourism conglomerate that owns Air Europa. Reports suggest she met with Javier Hidalgo, then-CEO of Globalia, during discussions between the company and the government regarding a substantial bailout amid the COVID-19-induced aviation crisis. Notably, Gómez previously served as the head of the IE Africa Center, affiliated with Madrid's IE Business School.

Allegations include claims that the IE Africa Center entered into a sponsorship agreement with Globalia in 2020, and Gómez held private meetings with Hidalgo at the company's headquarters. These encounters reportedly coincided with negotiations for Air Europa's bailout, culminating in significant government financial assistance.

Furthermore, investigators are examining letters of support allegedly provided by Gómez for a joint venture competing for a public contract. The venture, led by consultant Carlos Barrabes, secured the contract and received substantial funding.

Manos Limpias, the organisation behind the complaint, is led by lawyer Miguel Bernad, whose legal history includes a previous conviction overturned due to insufficient evidence. In response to queries during a parliamentary session, Sánchez expressed confidence in Spain's judicial system. However, PP officials insisted on clarification from the Prime Minister, highlighting the significance of the matter for the Spanish public.

The escalating political standoff saw exchanges between government and opposition representatives, with accusations of defamation and attempts to undermine democracy. Despite these tensions, Sánchez's administration vowed to resist what they termed "Trumpesque practices" to tarnish Spain's democratic institutions.

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