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Spain PM Sanchez says he is suspending public duties to "reflect" on future

2 min

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday said he will suspend public duties until next week to decide whether he wants to continue leading the government after a court launched a preliminary probe of his wife.

Spain's Socialist leader and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez looks on as his wife Begona Gomez votes during the general snap election in Madrid, Spain, July 23, 2023. Reuters/Nacho Doce

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday said he will suspend public duties until next week to decide whether he wants to continue leading the government after a court launched a preliminary probe of his wife.

Sanchez, who last year secured another term for his Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) as leader of a minority coalition government, said he would announce his decision on Monday, April 29.

"I urgently need an answer to the question of whether it is worthwhile ... to lead the government or renounce this honour," he wrote in a letter shared on his X account.

WHAT PROMPTED SANCHEZ'S MOVE?

A Spanish court confirmed on Wednesday it had launched a preliminary investigation into his wife, Begona Gomez, for alleged influence peddling and business corruption following a complaint raised by anti-graft campaign group Manos Limpias - Clean Hands - whose leader has links to the far-right.

The court did not provide further details as the case is sealed and in early stages.

Manos Limpias accused Gomez of using her influence as the wife of the prime minister to secure sponsors for a university master's degree course that she ran.

Manos Limpias uses a unique Spanish legal instrument known as the "people's accusation" to bring criminal complaints against third parties. Judges can choose whether or not to act on such complaints, and not every accusation has led to a judicial investigation.

Several media reported on Wednesday that the directors of two online news outlets that originally published the claims of Gomez's alleged wrongdoing will testify as witnesses.

WHAT ARE THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST HIS WIFE?

Manos Limpias claimed - citing the online newspaper reports - that Gomez received favours from airline Air Europa and its Spanish holding company Globalia during her time as director of an African research centre at Madrid's IE business school until 2022, according to radio station Cadena Ser, which shared a document it said was the legal complaint on its website.

IE said in a statement that it had never received any financial support from Globalia or its entities.

In March, Spain's conflict of interests watchdog threw out a complaint made by the opposition People's Party that claimed there was a link between a government bail-out for Air Europa following the COVID crisis that grounded travel and the "economic and professional ties" of Sanchez's wife.

In a joint statement from March, Globalia and Air Europa said the aid received from the Spanish government was "in line with the parameters of other aid received by different companies in the sector in Spain and the rest of Europe" and it considered itself a victim of "political crossfire".

Gomez has not commented. Sanchez says his wife has done nothing illegal and is being attacked "to weaken me politically and personally". He has said his wife will defend her honour and will cooperate with the proceedings.

WHAT OTHER CORRUPTION CASES ARE THERE IN SPAIN?

In Spain, politicians of all stripes routinely accuse each other along with family members and associates of corruption and there have been some high-profile scandals that resulted in convictions.

Pedro Sanchez came to power in 2018 when the previous conservative government lost a confidence vote in the wake of a corruption scandal.

At present, there are several parliamentary commissions examining public contracts for health supplies during the pandemic.

Earlier this year, former Spanish Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos refused calls from his PSOE party to resign as a lawmaker after his assistant was accused of taking bribes to facilitate COVID mask contracts.

Another high profile case of an alleged tax fraud affects the boyfriend of Madrid's conservative regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso. She has defended her boyfriend.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Corina Pons

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