Finance minister stresses his lack of ties to consultancy under scrutiny
Cristóbal Montoro notes he told Congress in 2013 about severing link with firm he founded
Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro on Friday reiterated that he no longer had any relationship with a consultancy firm he founded that is now under scrutiny over a €90,000 public contract.
“When I accepted a congressional seat I left the company, because I felt that [the new position] required complete dedication,” he said after the weekly Cabinet meeting, marking Montoro’s first public appearance after EL PAÍS revealed that the consultancy, Equipo Económico, was being investigated by anti-corruption prosecutors.
Investigators are trying to determine if the firm received preferential treatment when in April 2012 the now-defunct Superior Council of Chambers asked Equipo Económico to carry out a study that would later serve as a draft for a new law regulating chambers of commerce.
Equipo Económico also won two consultancy contracts worth €2 million
“There is no such thing as Montoro’s firm, there hasn’t been since 2008,” said the minister, in reference to the year when he sold his stake in the company. “If I left the company, how do you want me to explain anything about a company I am no longer with? How does one explain what’s going on at a place where one is not?”
Prosecutors want to know why the contract was not put out to a public bid. Under the law, contracts valued at more than €12,000 must be awarded by tender. The contract was worth €90,000, down from an initial €216,000.
The Popular Party (PP) official fell back on a 2013 congressional appearance during which he stated that he maintained no relationship with the firm, originally named Montoro y Asociados, which he founded in 2006 but left when he returned to politics.
In December 2013, Montoro appeared in Congress in connection with the Cemex case, involving a series of resignations at the Tax Agency over an inspection of a Mexican cement company.
At the time, Socialist deputy Pedro Saura asked: “Was there ever any relationship leading to a conflict of interest between yourself or your ministerial team and the beneficiary company, or the company that provided consulting services to the multinational? Have you or anyone in your team had professional relations, or relations of another nature, with any leading officers at the multinational under discussion?”
Montoro’s only reply at the time was to underscore that he had maintained no relationship with Equipo Económico since 2008.
Besides the contract for the chamber of commerce work, in 2008 Equipo Económico also won two consultancy contracts worth €2 million from the semi-public Madrid Network corporation, which receives funding from the regional government of Madrid, the Chamber of Commerce and employers’ association CEIM. Montoro left the consultancy a few months before the latter secured both contracts.