Minister denies witch hunt at Tax Agency but claims department filled with Socialists

A rash of firings raises questions about decisions made at office

Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro on Friday denied there was a witch hunt at the Tax Agency (AEAT), where about a half a dozen top officials have been replaced over the past week. But he claimed the unit that audited the country’s biggest contributors and where most of the firings took place was filled with Socialists.

 “They left because they didn’t like the director,” he told reporters during Constitution Day ceremonies.

The minister denied that they were replaced because of ongoing scandals involving Cemex and the Nóos Institute. He also played down the importance of the new appointments, which were announced in the Official Gazette.

Santiago Menéndez, the new head of AEAT, reorganized the agency, replacing top officials with his own people. Among them were special delegates in Galicia, Cantabria and Castilla y León as well as the planning and institutional relations departments. This restructuring occurred following the resignation of the head of AEAT’s financial inspection department, Luis Jones.

Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who was also at the Constitution Day ceremonies, said he would ask for a special congressional investigation after accusing Montoro and the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) of purging employees inside the Tax Agency.

The resignations of Jones and two others took place after an inspector was dismissed when she threw out an appeal by the cement giant Cemex’s Spanish subsidiary against a 450-million-euro fine that was levied against it. It was a decision that upset management at the agency, workers told EL PAÍS.

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