Could this be the end of Spain’s longest-running television series?

Lead actors in family saga ‘Cuéntame’ face tax probe

Natalia Marcos

This Thursday state television channel La Primera will be showing the final episode of the 17th season of Cuéntame, one of Spain’s longest-running and most popular television series ever, which began by telling the story of a middle-class family during the final years of the Franco dictatorship and on into the early years of democracy, and has now reached 1985.

But the prime-time show’s future is now in doubt after it was revealed via the so-called Panama Papers that its two main actors, Ana Duato and Imanol Arias, have evaded paying almost €3 million in taxes between them from income that came principally from their roles as the husband and wife at the center of the series.

The pair are suspected of not paying the full amount of tax they owed via a series of opaque companies created by Spanish law firm Nummaria. Arias is thought to have concealed €2.18 million from the taxman between 2010 and 2014, while Duato failed to pay €794,389 between 2010 and 2012.

Both are now under investigation by a high court judge on suspicion of tax fraud and money-laundering offenses.

Duato and Arias are accused of using a Costa Rican national, Bernal Zamora Arce, as a front man. Zamora is also implicated in the activities of the Púnica kickbacks for contracts network headed by businessman David Marzaliza and Francisco Granados, the former general secretary of the Madrid regional division of the Popular Party.

All companies that work with RTVE are required to present a certificate from the tax office proving they are up to date with their fiscal obligations

As a result, senior management at state broadcaster RTVE, which shows the series, are reportedly concerned about negative publicity. State prosecutors have not so far implicated the company that produces the series, Ganga Producciones, but they have turned their sights on Ganga Proyectos and the production company’s manager, Miguel Ángel Bernardeau. All companies that work with RTVE are required to present a certificate from the tax office proving they are up to date with their fiscal obligations, something that Ganga cannot at the moment do, leaving the future of the series in the air.

“As clients of Nummaria, the company under investigation, we acted in good faith, we pay our taxes in Spain, we have no accounts abroad, and we are up to date regarding our fiscal obligations and neither the bank accounts of Ganga or Miguel Ángel Bernadeau have been embargoed,” said Ganga Producciones in a statement.

RTVE has already launched an internal audit into the series’ tax affairs following allegations from an actor who has since left the program. Until the results of the audit are known, say sources, no go-ahead can be given for an 18th series.

Cuéntame, which means “Tell me” in Spanish, was first aired in 2001. Thursday’s series-closing episode includes a double marriage: Duato and Arias will renew their marriage vows, while their daughter ties the knot. Sources at RTVE say this ending was not planned as the definitive conclusion to the series. Despite the negative publicity generated in recent weeks by the Panama Papers revelations, or perhaps because of it, viewing figures have not been affected. The penultimate episode, aired last Thursday, was watched by more than 3.4 million people, garnering an 18.7% audience share.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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