Spain : Sanchez wife’s activities, according to El Confidencial

Tags : Spain, Pedro Sanchez, Begoña Gomez, PSOE, Koldo case, Globalia, Air Europa,

The research of El Confidencial on Begoña Gómez: the facts that she does not even deny

The exclusives of this newspaper revealed contacts with a businessman from the ‘Koldo case’ and the head of Globalia, rescued by the government, as well as her support for a sympathetic entrepreneur to obtain million-dollar public contracts.

By Alejandro Requeijo

El Confidencial’s investigation into the activities of the wife of the President of the Government, Begoña Gómez, consists of eight chapters that have prompted this week the opening of a judicial investigation for influence peddling and corruption in the private sector. The response of the head of the Executive, Pedro Sánchez, has been to suspend his agenda and consider his resignation in the face of what he describes as a campaign of harassment based on false information. However, none of the news published by this newspaper has been denied by the Government or Begoña Gómez. The wife of the Socialist leader demanded in writing that the headline of an article be qualified, but did not deny its content or the rest of the exclusives that have revealed her relationships with private companies that have received aid and public contracts from the Government.

Connection with the ‘Koldo case’ broker

The first news was published on February 29 and revealed that « the broker of the ministry and Javier Hidalgo met with Sánchez’s wife to present her with business ». The aforementioned broker is businessman Víctor de Aldama, who in those days was in the news for his participation in the ‘Koldo case’, the scheme of former minister José Luis Ábalos’ advisor investigated for receiving commissions. In the summary of the case, Aldama’s commercial relationship with Globalia, owned by the Hidalgo family, appeared.

The Government and Begoña Gómez did not explain the reason for those meetings or the issues discussed in them. This newspaper contacted the State Secretariat for Communication to obtain their version of this link, but received no response. They also did not deny those meetings of Begoña Gómez with the individual involved in the corrupt network.

The meetings took place before and after the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 and coincided with the awards of emergency contracts by the Ministry of Transport for the purchase of masks being investigated by the National Court. They also occurred in parallel with the historic rescue operation of Globalia (and its airline Air Europa) with 615 million euros of public funds. In statements to the media, the Vice President of the Government, María Jesús Montero, defended Begoña Gómez by arguing that « meeting with businessmen » is part of her job. She also asked that politicians’ relatives not be involved in public debate.

2) Globalia sponsorships

A day after the first news, this newspaper provided more details about Begoña Gómez’s relationship with Globalia. Specifically, El Confidencial reported that the Hidalgo company signed a collaboration agreement with Begoña Gómez’s IE Africa Center just a few weeks before Sánchez’s government saved Air Europa with 615 million euros. Javier Hidalgo’s holding even financed an event for the wife of the PSOE’s secretary general in London and sponsored awards jointly organized with the IE Africa Center, which Begoña Gómez attended. The outbreak of Covid prevented Hidalgo from funding more public events for the president’s wife.

El Confidencial published another piece of information on March 4 with the exact dates of two visits made by Begoña Gómez to Air Europa’s headquarters in Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid). The meetings took place in secret, in Hidalgo’s office, during negotiations with the government for the rescue of Globalia’s airline.

The appointments took place on June 24, 2020, and July 16, 2020. Air Europa confirmed the two visits by Begoña to its headquarters. Between these two dates, the government created a 10 billion euro fund that it ended up using to rescue the Hidalgo clan’s company. In addition, there was a third conversation via telematics.

A 40,000 euro per year pact

« Air Europa agreed to pay €40,000 a year to Begoña Gómez’s Africa Center before the rescue ». This was the headline of a new exclusive published on March 15, two weeks after the first information. The new news put numbers to the agreement between Globalia and IE Africa Center. Of the 40,000 euros annual sponsorship, up to 15,000 euros were earmarked for first-class tickets for the president’s wife and her team.

The newspaper had access to the confidential contract of the agreement. Its authenticity was confirmed again by Globalia and the Institute of Business. The other 25,000 euros annually paid by the tourism holding to Begoña Gómez’s educational institution were intended to sponsor two African-origin tourist projects per year and finance events and other activities related to the awards promoted by Globalia.

Pedro Sánchez did not abstain

The journalistic revelations of this newspaper also implicate the Prime Minister. Sánchez did not step down from the Council of Ministers that rescued Air Europa despite the sponsorships the company granted to his wife. Law 3/2015 regulating conflicts of interest requires government members to abstain from decisions that may benefit their « spouses » and provides for sanctions including removal from office.

In an argument disseminated in recent hours by La Moncloa to try to defuse the investigation against Begoña Gómez, the government emphasizes that the Office of Conflict of Interests has already dismissed on two occasions complaints from the PP. But the government omits that the dismissal was based exclusively on a report from its own Department of the Presidency.

According to the minutes of the Council of Ministers of November 3, to which El Confidencial had access, that day the specific agreement authorizing « the approval of the temporary public support operation requested by Air Europa Holding SLU, Air Europa Líneas Aéreas SAU, and Aeronova SLU », all subsidiaries of the Globalia conglomerate, was approved.

The letter of recommendation

The ‘Begoña Gómez case’ entered a new dimension on April 2, when El Confidencial revealed another area of activity of the President’s wife that has also raised suspicions about her impartiality and affects public money again. The partner of the Socialist leader signed a letter in July 2020 for a joint venture of two private companies to win a €7 million government contract.

It so happens that one of the main shareholders of the winning joint venture was businessman and consultant Carlos Barrabés. This person helped bring Begoña Gómez closer to Air Europa in 2019 and subsequently designed and filled with content the Master in Competitive Social Transformation of the Complutense University of Madrid directed by Sánchez’s partner since 2020.

The second letter

As in previous cases, El Confidencial provided documents to support this information. Thus, the next day, it expanded its investigation and was able to sustain that Gómez signed a second letter for the consultant of her Master to win another €4.4 million from the government. The information explained that Sánchez’s wife wrote a second statement of support for Carlos Barrabés for another tender, and the businessman also won this new tender.

According to the tender file, 20 other companies showed interest in the award, including giants like Everis, DXC Technology, Altia Consultores, and Manpower. However, the alliance participated by Barrabés ended up prevailing over all its rivals by a very narrow margin and was officially proclaimed the winner of the award on August 2, 2021. « Begoña Gómez’s UTE won by hundredths in sweeping the subjective phase with her signature, » this newspaper titled in a subsequent article.

The request for rectification

This expression « Begoña Gómez’s UTE » – included in the third of the articles published about her support for businessman Barrabés – is the only thing that the wife of the Prime Minister has requested to rectify in everything published by El Confidencial. She wanted to make it clear that she had no UTE, something that was conveniently explained in the text of that information and the previous ones. The Supreme Court has said on several occasions that the form and intention with which journalists focus their news are not part of the canon of the truthfulness of the information, so the fact described in the headline is true and legitimate.

Additionally, she accused El Confidencial of having been publishing « a series of reports referring to her person containing multiple inaccuracies with the intention of generating confusion and harming me professionally and personally », although she does not clarify exactly what those alleged inaccuracies are.

A court investigates

The eighth and so far latest relevant publication for the case exclusively by El Confidencial is the judicialization of the case. It concerns the opening of an investigation by the Madrid Court of Instruction No. 41 for an alleged crime of influence peddling based on a complaint filed by the Manos Limpias union. It is based on the publications of El Confidencial and other media that the judge will now have to study, having decreed the secrecy of the proceedings.

At the moment, Begoña Gómez has not been summoned to formally testify as a suspect with a lawyer, but this step is what has led the Prime Minister to consider his resignation. Barely 24 hours later, the Prosecutor’s Office has already appealed the opening of this investigation to the Provincial Court of Madrid, which will have to decide whether to allow the judge to continue with his inquiries or to order the case to be closed.

El Confidencial, 27/04/2024

#Spain #PedroSanchez #BegoñaGomez #PSOE

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