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Spain: PM Sanchez suspends public duties as wife probed

April 24, 2024

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday he will suspend public duties until next week to decide whether he wants to continue leading the government after a court launched a probe of his wife.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his wife Begona Gomez walking through a courtyard
Begona Gomez (right) does not hold public office and maintains a low political profile.Image: Marcelo del Pozo/Getty Images

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday that he was considering the possibility of resigning after a court opened a fraud investigation into his wife.

"I need to pause and think," Sanchez in a letter shared on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, announcing that he was suspending his public duties until Monday, by which time he will have made a decision.

"I urgently need an answer to the question of whether ... I should continue to lead the government or renounce this honor," he wrote.

Why is Pedro Sanchez' wife being investigated?

The announcement came after a Spanish court said earlier on Wednesday that it was launching a preliminary investigation into whether Begona Gomez had abused her position as the Prime Minister's spouse to allegedly secure sponsors for a university master's degree course that she ran.

Gomez, 49, does not hold public office and maintains a low political profile.

The court said it had opened the probe into "influence peddling and corruption" in response to a complaint by the anti-corruption pressure group Manos Limpias ("Clean Hands"), whose leader has links to the far-right.

Socialist premier Sanchez, who has just formed a new left-wing coalition government after offering amnesty to exiled Catalan separatists, said in his letter that the complaint was based on "non-existent" facts and was part of a campaign of "harassment" against his wife led by "ultraconservative" media and supported by the conservative and far-right opposition.

"I am not naive. I am aware that they are bringing charges against Begona, not because she's done anything illegal, because they know full well that's not true, but because she's my wife," he added.

While Manos Limpias describes itself as a union, its main activity is pursuing legal cases, many linked to right-wing causes, as a so-called "popular prosecution."

This peculiarity of Spanish law allows individuals or entities to take part in certain criminal cases even when they haven't been directly harmed by the accused.

Sanchez's Justice Minister Felix Bolanos called the allegations against Gomez "false."

Asked in Parliament whether he thought the judicial system is working in light of the court's decision, Sanchez replied: "On a day like today and after hearing the news, despite everything, I still believe in the judicial system of this country."

mf/wmr (AFP, AP)