HomeWorldMadrid prosecutors ask judge to shelve investigation into Spanish PM’s wife

Madrid prosecutors ask judge to shelve investigation into Spanish PM’s wife


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Prosecutors in Madrid have asked a judge to throw out a preliminary corruption investigation against the wife of Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, as the pressure group behind the complaint admitted its allegations may be based on incorrect media reports.

Sánchez, whose socialist party has governed Spain since 2018, shocked the country on Wednesday night by announcing that he was considering resigning over what he termed a baseless “harassment and bullying operation” being waged against him and his wife by his political and media opponents.

The prime minister said the “seriousness of the attacks” he and his wife, Begoña Gómez, were experiencing had led him to re-evaluate his position, and that he would reveal his decision on Monday.

His announcement came hours after a Madrid court opened a preliminary investigation into Gómez’s business affairs, following a complaint made by a pressure group whose leader has links to the far right and which frequently brings legal action against those it accuses of acting against Spain’s democratic interests.

The group, Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), has accused Gómez of using her influence as the wife of the prime minister to secure sponsors for a university master’s degree course that she ran.

Sánchez said the Manos Limpias complaint was based on “alleged reporting” by news sites whose political leanings he described as “overtly rightwing and far right”, adding: “As is only logical, Begoña will defend her honour and will cooperate with the justice system as much as is necessary to clear up facts that are as scandalous in appearance as they are nonexistent.”

On Thursday, Madrid prosecutors asked the court to shelve the investigation, while Manos Limpias appeared to row back on its accusations.

Although the court has not provided any details so far, the online news site El Confidencial said investigators were examining Gómez’s links to several private companies that received government funding or won public contracts.

The site said the investigation was linked to Gómez’s alleged ties with the Spanish tourism group Globalia, which owns the Air Europa airline.

It said she had twice met Javier Hidalgo, Globalia’s chief executive, when the carrier was in talks with the government to secure a huge bailout after it was badly hit by the loss of air traffic due to the Covid-19 crisis. At the time, Gómez was running IE Africa Center, a foundation linked to Madrid’s Instituto de Empresa (IE) business school, in a position that she left in 2022.

In a statement released on Thursday morning, Manos Limpias seemed more cautious about the allegations that had formed the basis of its complaint. The group said it had learned “through various digital newspapers, about information that outlined alleged irregularities that could allegedly be criminal”.

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It said it had exercised its right to put the matter before a judge, who would be best placed to determine whether the media reports were true. “If they are not true, then whoever published them should take responsibility,” the statement said. “But if they are not untrue, we understand that the judicial investigation should continue.”

While Sánchez’s allies have rallied around him, and government sources have decried the personal attacks as indicative of the Trump-like turns Spanish politics have taken over recent years, his opponents have accused him of petulance, playing the victim, and failing to live up to his office.

“The prime minister of Spain can’t throw an adolescent fit so that people line up to tell him not to be upset and to carry on,” said Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the leader of the conservative People’s party (PP). “Being prime minister is more serious than that. Being prime minister is about being accountable to the people, even in difficult circumstances.”

Sánchez, who has built a reputation as a political survivor and risk-taker, could remain in office and submit himself to a confidence vote to try to shore up his leadership. If he resigns on Monday, MPs could attempt to choose a new prime minister, or a general election – Spain’s sixth in nine years – could be called and held in July.

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