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Prosecutor wants case against Spanish PM’s wife dismissed

Spain’s prosecuting authority has requested the dismissal of a corruption case against the wife of the country’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, that prompted him to announce he is considering resigning.

The authority said it was appealing yesterday’s decision by a court to look into a private complaint laid by anti-corruption activists against Begona Gomez over alleged influence peddling and business corruption.

The Spanish anti-graft group behind the complaint, Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), said that it had based its suit on media reports and could not vouch for their veracity.

The group’s head, Miguel Bernad, said in a statement on Facebook that it had merely compiled and passed the reports to a judge out of “civic duty” and denied that the action was politically motivated.

Mr Sanchez, who last year secured another term for his Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) as leader of a minority coalition government, issued a letter to citizens yesterday saying he was taking a five-day break from public duties and would announce his decision to stay or quit on Monday.

He blamed the move on what he called “unprecedented slander and harassment from the right and far right”.

In his letter, Mr Sanchez forcefully denied the allegations against his wife. Ms Gomez has not addressed them in public.

Mr Bernad, who ran in two European elections as a candidate for the far-right National Front in the 1980s, said in his statement that the suit was not political but “solely based on journalistic reports”.

Manos Limpias had decided to ask the court to launch a probe into Ms Gomez’s business dealings after prosecutors had failed to act on their own initiative and the investigating judge would decide whether the media reports were true or not, he said.

The judge handling the case, Juan Carlos Peinado, said that he would open a preliminary investigation to look at whether Ms Gomez had engaged in influence peddling and corruption in business in her private dealings.

What next as Spanish PM suspends duties after allegations?

High-ranking Socialist Party officials closed ranks around Mr Sanchez, describing the political climate as “toxic” and the complaint by Manos Limpias as fake.

Deputy premier and budget minister Maria Jesus Montero said she hoped that he would announce next week that he would remain in the post “because we need him”.

The political outcomes of Mr Sanchez’s move range from him staying in his role to his resignation, which would lead to either a new candidate standing for a vote in the lower house or a snap election in the summer.

Mr Sanchez could also submit himself to a confidence vote to reinforce his leadership.

Online news site El Confidencial said investigators were investigating Ms Gomez’s ties to several private companies that received government funding or won public contracts.

The site said the inquiry was linked to the alleged ties which Ms Gomez – who does not hold public office and maintains a low profile – had with Spanish tourism group Globalia, which owns Air Europa.

It said she had twice met with Javier Hidalgo, Globalia’s CEO at the time, when the carrier was in talks with the government to secure a bailout, after it was badly hit by the collapse in air traffic due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Judge Peinado has called two digital newspaper editors to testify as witnesses in the investigation, according to a court source.

It is unclear whether Ms Gomez will be formally named as a suspect in the sealed probe, which is still in early stages and pending the prosecutor’s appeal.

PM making ‘show’ with talk of resignation – opposition

The head of Spain’s main opposition party accused the prime minister of making a “show” by speaking of his possible resignation.

“The vast majority (of Spaniards) are watching with amazement the latest show that Mr Sanchez has provoked,” leader of the conservative Popular Party Alberto Nunez Feijoo told a news conference.

Sceptical of any talk of resignation, Mr Feijoo accused Mr Sanchez of using the court investigation to seek public sympathy.

He said the prime minister had “set in motion a political survival operation by seeking to mobilise people on the basis of compassion”.

“The head of a government worthy of our nation does not subject it to international shame,” he added.

In his letter, Mr Sanchez defended his wife’s innocence and said she would cooperate with the investigation.

“I need to pause and think,” he wrote in his four-page letter.

“I urgently need an answer to the question of whether it is worthwhile … whether I should continue to lead the government or renounce this honour.”

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