Spain prosecutor requests dismissal of corruption case against PM Sanchez’s wife

By Thomson Reuters Apr 25, 2024 | 6:58 AM

MADRID (Reuters) – Madrid’s prosecuting authority said on Thursday it had requested the dismissal of a corruption case against Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife that prompted him to announce he is considering resigning.

The authority said it was appealing Wednesday’s decision by a Madrid 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 earlier 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 the group had merely compiled and passed the reports to a judge out of “civic duty”, and denied that the action was politically motivated.

Sanchez, who last year secured another term for his Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) as leader of a minority coalition government, issued a stunning letter to citizens on Wednesday saying he was taking a five-day break from public duties and would announce his decision to stay or quit on April 29.

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

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

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

Manos Limpias had decided to ask the court to launch a probe into 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 on Wednesday he would open a preliminary case to investigate whether Gomez had engaged in influence peddling and corruption in business in her private dealings.

High-ranking Socialist Party officials closed ranks around 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 he would announce next week he would remain in the post “because we need him”.

The political outcomes of Sanchez’s move range from him staying in his role to his resigning, which would lead to either a new candidate standing for a vote in the lower house or a snap election in the summer. Sanchez could also submit himself to a confidence vote to reinforce his leadership.

Judge Peinado has called two digital newspaper editors to testify as witnesses in the probe, a court source told Reuters.

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

(Reporting by David Latona, Emma Pinedo and Corina Pons; Editing by Aislinn Laing and Frances Kerry)