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Pedro Sánchez embroiled in corruption scandal

Photo: Oscar Del Pozo Agence France-Presse The government of socialist Pedro Sánchez finds itself entangled in a corruption affair.

Christian Chaise – Agence France-Presse in Madrid

March 6, 2024

  • Europe

The Spanish government of socialist Pedro Sánchez is increasingly embroiled in a corruption scandal over contracts for the purchase of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president of the Congress of Deputies, the third person in the State, the socialist Francina Armengol, whose right-wing opposition is demanding her resignation, had to appear before the press on Tuesday to proclaim her innocence.

It all started on February 21 with the arrest of Koldo García Izaguirre, confidant of a former socialist Minister of Transport who was also close to Pedro Sánchez until 2021, José Luis Ábalos.

Mr. Garcia is suspected of being at the heart of a scam that allowed a small, previously unknown company to obtain contracts worth $53 million between March and June 2020 — at the height of the pandemic. euros to provide masks to various administrations. These contracts would have generated illegal commissions of at least 9.5 million euros.

Since his arrest, the newspapers – especially those on the right – have been feeding on this affair daily, called “the Koldo scheme” or, more simply, “the Koldo affair”.

For the government, every day delivers its share of bad news, placing it on the defensive in the face of increasingly violent accusations from the right.

At first, the Socialist Party expelled Mr. Ábalos, who refused to resign from his seat as deputy, claiming that he had nothing to reproach himself for and that no charges were weighing on him. him.

“You’ve got it covered! »

We have since learned that the judge in charge of the investigation considered that Mr. Ábalos had played the role of “intermediary” in this scheme.

The Popular Party (PP, right), the leading opposition party, stressed that Mr. Sánchez had replaced Mr. Ábalos during a reshuffle in July 2021, claiming that this sidelining confirmed that the Prime Minister was aware of the affair and had wanted to remove a troublesome minister.

“You knew about it and you covered it up! » said last week to Mr. Sánchez the leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, without however providing proof.

Since then, the PP has exploited two other avenues opened up by the investigation. They concern two of the contracts obtained in 2020 during the pandemic by this small company at the heart of the scandal.

These contracts were concluded by 2 of the country's 17 autonomous regions, then governed by the socialists: the Canary Islands (for an amount of 12.2 million euros) and the Balearic archipelago (for an amount of 3.7 million euros).

The head of the Canarian government at the time, Ángel Víctor Torres, has been Minister of Territorial Policy since November.

In the case of the Balearic Islands, the regional government was then headed by Ms. Armengol, who was elected president of the Congress of Deputies in August.

“Red lines”

The PP asks how the Balearic Government was able to award a contract for such a sum to a company that no one knew about and which, moreover, delivered masks that did not correspond to those that had been paid.

On Monday, the PP officially requested the resignation of Ms. Armengol.

“Never, never in my life have I given instructions to any of my governments to sign a contract with one company or another,” the latter told the press on Tuesday , accusing the PP of “crossing all the red lines”.

Her words were not enough to put an end to the attacks by the PP, whose spokesperson, Miguel Tellado, again urged her to “give up her position as soon as possible”.

In addition, the European Union prosecutor's office announced on Monday that it would investigate these two contracts concluded by the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, as the masks were allegedly purchased with money from European funds.

A first head could roll on Wednesday, according to Spanish media: that of the secretary general of the public entity that manages the ports, Álvaro Sánchez Manzanares, who had ordered eight million masks for twenty million euros from the company at the center of the Koldo affair.

The matter is all the more delicate for Mr. Sánchez because he came to power in 2018 after the fall of a right-wing government in a huge corruption case and he made integrity and transparency its workhorse.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116