Minister “does not know” why his name shows up in Panama Papers

Opposition wants José Manuel Soria to resign after he is found on offshore company documents

Acting Industry Minister José Manuel Soria at a press conference in Lanzarote on Monday.
Acting Industry Minister José Manuel Soria at a press conference in Lanzarote on Monday.JAVIER FUENTES (EFE)

Opposition parties on Monday called on the acting government for explanations regarding the alleged involvement of a Spanish Cabinet minister in the Panama Papers scandal.

Acting Industry Minister José Manuel Soria has denied being the owner of an offshore company based in Panama, as reported by the Spanish TV channel La Sexta and online news outlet El Confidencial.

The Socialist Party (PSOE), Podemos and United Left all called for Soria’s resignation, while Ciudadanos wants acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to provide explanations about the case in person.

No clue

F. G. / J. J. M.

Soria said he has no idea why his name showed up for two months as director of a company named UK Lines Limited.

He said he has authorized High Court attorneys to gather any relevant personal information in connection with the case.

“I have had no participation in this company, either as a partner, as a director or in any other capacity,” he said in Lanzarote.

The acting minister did admit to knowledge of this company because one of his family businesses, Oceanic, had commercial ties to it.

At a press conference Monday in Lanzarote, Soria said he never had any relationship with any companies in Panama, and refused to appear in Congress, citing the acting government’s position that it is not beholden to congressional oversight.

Soria said he has no idea why his name shows up on the list of directors of a company incorporated in the Bahamas in 1995.

This piece of information is part of a trove of 11.5 million documents from a Panama-based law firm that were leaked to the media. Other Spaniards whose names have cropped up in the Panama Papers include the filmmaker brothers Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar and an aunt of King Felipe VI’s.

But the Popular Party (PP) has so far backed Soria, describing his explanations as “solid.” Neither the government nor the minister himself are willing to make a congressional appearance to discuss the case.

“These issues need to be explained in parliament, it is essential,” said Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, who has not asked for Soria’s resignation but was the only politician to demand explanations from Rajoy himself. “This affects trust in politics, the fight against tax fraud and the fight against corruption.”

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Rivera added that Rajoy should explain whether the people who applied for the PP’s 2012 tax amnesty also show up in the Panama Papers. “We get the feeling that some people have been forgiven for their tax fraud, and through that, forgiven for their corruption as well.”

Last week, Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro said that almost every Spaniard who shows up in the Panama Papers applied for the tax amnesty.

The Socialist Party wants to create a task force to investigate the documentation that has emerged in connection with the case.

“[Soria] used tax havens in the past to not pay taxes, and he concealed it in the present,” said Socialist congressional spokesman Antonio Hernando. “It is immoral to have had a company not pay taxes, and it is immoral to have tried to conceal it.”

English version by Susana Urra.


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