News Reports

Spain nominates #PanamaPapers leak minister for World Bank job

By Bassey Udo

September 08, 2016

The Spanish government brushed aside global concerns to name its former Industry Minister, Jose Manuel Soria, as the country’s proposed representative at the World Bank.

Mr. Soria’s nomination is coming despite being linked with an offshore company listed in the Panama papers leaks earlier this year.

Although he denied any wrongdoing, Mr. Soria was compelled to resign his appointment last April, apparently to forestall any negative backlash on Spain’s caretaker government, the conservative Popular Party (PP).

But, few months after, the Spanish government has sent his name as its nominee to be voted one of the 25 executive directors by the189 governors at the Washington-based Bretton Woods institution, the Economy Ministry said on Wednesday.

Mr. Soria was named in the Panama Papers leaks scandal with details about his relationship with U.K. Lines, an offshore firm owned by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The leak involved a massive trove of over 11.5 million internal financial documents from a Panama-based law firm leaked to over 100 media outlets around the world, including PREMIUM TIMES, Nigeria’s only newspaper involved in the global investigation.

But, Mr. Soria’s proposed nomination for the global body’s job appears to have contradicted the Spanish government’s policy of always evaluating the suitability of candidates and their public service track records before being selected for international positions.

Regardless of the criticisms, the Spanish government on Wednesday remained unfazed, insisting there was nothing wrong with Mr. Soria’s appointment, describing it as “purely administrative” and not “political”

“If a civil servant cannot be a civil servant, then what’s going on?” Economy Minister, Luis de Guindos said on the sidelines of the ongoing G20 Summit at the Chinese city of Hangzhou. “This is not a political appointment, but administrative. It is not decided by the Cabinet or me.”

Both the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and the Economy Minister Guindos, who are known to be Mr. Soria’s personal friends, said they were not ready to back down on his appointment despite it being potentially embarrassing to government. ‎ “Soria resigned from his political appointments and returned to the Commercial Technicians and State Economists Corps. He requested the appointment, and it would be illegal to deny it to him, because he is not under investigation or been debarred,” Mr. Guindos said.

On his part, the Prime Minister is quoted to have confirmed Mr. Soria had informed him of his desire to apply for the job in June, two months after he was linked to the Panama Papers.

Mr. Soria’s proposed appointment further puts enormous pressure on the PP caretaker government, which has been inundated with huge corruption scandals involving scores of high-profile former and current officials standing trial.

The opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) has asked Mr. Guindos to appear before the Spanish Congress to explain the rationale behind Mr. Soria’s nomination.

Mr. Guindos has said the decision was informed by government’s determination no let the chance of having a Spaniard on the board of the World Bank slip by, as the former minister was the best man for the job.