Spain Health Minister Ana Mato resigns over scandal | News | DW | 26.11.2014
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Spain Health Minister Ana Mato resigns over scandal

Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato has resigned after her former husband was linked to a corruption scandal that involved the ruling People's Party. A judge had earlier accused her of benefiting from a bribery scandal.

The minister on Wednesday said she was standing down for the good of her party as well as the government.

Mato made her announcement only hours after a judge in Spain's Audiencia Nacional higher court accused Mato of having benefited from the illegal business activities of her former husband while he was mayor of the Madrid suburb of Pozuelo.

"I don't want, under any circumstances, to damage the government of Spain, the president or the People's Party by remaining in this post," she said.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, officially the president of Spain's government, is due to give an important speech on corruption this Thursday.

The massive bribes scandal, known as the "Gurtel" case, allegedly extends to six regional governments led by the People's Party (PP) and operated between 1999 and 2009, when an investigation began.

'I had no knowledge'

Mato stressed that she had not been charged and faced only the possibility of fines "because of my family situation at the time the alleged events occurred."

"The ruling in no way accuses me of any crime," she said. "It signals that I had no knowledge of any crime that could have been committed."

The minister may have to return 50,000 euros ($62,000), the value of which the judge said the family had received from one of her husband's contacts, Francisco Correa.

Travel and gifts are alleged to have been given as kickbacks for public contracts that involved Mato's husband at the time, Jesus Sepulveda.

Speaking at the Audiencia Nacional, Judge Pablo Ruz said he planned to ask Mato whether she knew about the provenance of gifts that were received by her family. As well as hotel stays and flights, they included luxury goods and family parties.

Clowns and confetti

Spanish media have reported that the family were treated to designer goods, first-communion celebrations and even clowns and confetti for children's birthday parties. Ruz is expected to determine the exact amount that Mato benefited from "shortly," and she may be summoned to appear in court.

The judge has dropped accusations against former Interior Minister Angel Acebes, who remains under investigation for suspected illegal funding of the People's Party. However, 43 people are to be charged over alleged involvement in the scandal.

Mato's popularity has been on the wane with the public, particularly after criticism about her handling of the case of a Spanish nurse who became infected with the Ebola virus.

Rajoy is set to make a speech about corruption as his party approaches an election year. The subject has enraged many Spaniards, with corruption the second-biggest concern for the electorate after unemployment. Disillusionment with the two main political parties has fueled support for an up-and-coming leftist newcomer, Podemos.

rc/mkg (AP, APF, dpa, Reuters)

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