Spanish Industry Minister Soria Resigns Over Panama Leaks

  • Soria linked to offshore company set up by Mossack Fonseca
  • Minister quits as deadline to form new government looms

Spanish Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria resigned Friday after his conflicting explanations inflamed a scandal over links to an offshore company listed in the Panama leaks.

Soria came under scrutiny this week over his involvement in U.K. Lines, an offshore firm set up by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. He first denied any involvement with the firm, arguing his name appeared on the list by mistake, then backtracked as new revelations showed he was involved in a similarly named company registered in the U.K. Calls for his resignation intensified after El Mundo newspaper released a document from the Jersey, U.K.-based company on Thursday carrying Soria’s signature.

“All political activity should be exemplary, including when it comes providing
explanations,” Soria said in an e-mailed statement Friday. “When that is not the case, you have to take responsibility accordingly.”

The leak this month of millions of pages of financial records from the Panamanian law firm, exposing billions of dollars in assets hidden in tax havens around the world, has set off a global furor. Seeking to contain the fallout from the scandal -- implicating everyone from world leaders to prominent business people -- some governments have pledged to crack down on tax evasion and money laundering to help regain public trust.

The Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Washington this week will probably urge Panama to do more to share information about companies registered there and France, working closely with Italy, Spain and Germany, wants G-20 nations to make it tough for people to hide behind trusts or foundations to avoid paying taxes. Iceland’s government defeated a no-confidence vote after sacrificing its prime minister to public outrage and promising an early election.

Having backed Soria at the start of the week, his colleagues from Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party began to duck questions over the case over the past 24 hours as the revelations started to pile up.

Soria is the second minister to resign from Rajoy’s government because of alleged financial impropriety. He steps down with politicians preparing for a repeat election in June as parties struggle to form a majority before a May 2 deadline.

Health Minister Ana Mato departed in 2014.

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