Spain's industry minister denies links to Panama Papers firm

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 11, 2016 10:07 AM

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's industry minister, Jose Manuel Soria, on Monday denied his involvement in an offshore company revealed by the Panama Papers, after two Spanish news outlets said they had documents proving he headed the offshore firm with his brother.

"I totally deny that I have anything to do with any company based in Panama, or any other tax haven," Soria said after TV channel La Sexta said the minister had briefly administrated in 1992 the offshore company UK Lines Limited based in the Bahamas.

La Sexta and online newspaper El Confidencial said Soria's name was replaced in the papers by that of his brother Luis Alberto Soria after a letter was sent to law firm Mossack Fonseca claiming an error had been made.

Soria is among scores of public figures worldwide who have been linked to 11.5 million leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in setting up offshore companies.

The minister said he had told his lawyer to contact Panamanian authorities to determine if his name had actually appeared on the papers.

Politicians from all parties, currently struggling to form a coalition to head the next government after inconclusive elections in December, have called for Soria's resignation.

"The example to follow is Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson," Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez tweeted, referring to the premier's decision to step down last week after documents linked him to an offshore company.

Soria's ruling People's Party (PP) has been plagued by a string of corruption scandals, pushing graft to the top of the political agenda and sending millions of voters looking for alternatives to the traditional two-party system.

Other public figures linked to the Panama papers by the Spanish press include FC Barcelona player Lionel Messi, Oscar-winning film director Pedro Almodovar and Literature Nobel Prize-winner Mario Vargas Llosa. They have all denied wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Blanca Rodriguez, writing by Paul Day; Editing by Julien Toyer and Richard Balmforth)