Covid-19

COVID-19

Spain to probe Covid-19 contracts allegedly linked to ministers

Spain to probe Covid-19 contracts allegedly linked to ministers
Spanish First Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Nadia Calvino speaks to the media at the Spanish Embassy, Washington DC, USA, 19 April 2022. Mrs Calvino was responding to The World Economic Report released by the International Monetary Fund today. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER

MADRID, April 22 (Reuters) - Spain's anti-corruption prosecutor said on Friday it would open a preliminary inquiry into alleged corruption by companies purportedly linked to government ministers that won lucrative contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The prosecutor’s office said it would assess the allegations submitted by Spain’s opposition People’s Party (PP) to determine whether the seven companies involved received special treatment and if there were grounds for a full investigation.

Under scrutiny are a contract for a marketing company allegedly linked to Economy Minister Nadia Calvino’s husband and the awarding of government support to a business with ties to the parents of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Neither the Economy Ministry nor the Prime Minister’s office responded to a request for comment.

Another supplier in question is FCS Select Products S.L., which the prosecutor said won contracts to supply face masks and surgical gloves worth 263 million euros ($284 million), having posted revenue of less than 1 million euros in 2018.

The prosecutor said the company’s stated business of beverage marketing had no relation to medical supplies and cited media reports linking it to former health minister Salvador Illa.

Reuters could not independently identify any link between Illa and the company. Neither FCS nor Illa could be reached for comment.

Two years since Covid-19 swept the globe, investigators are beginning to comb through the fine print of contracts signed in the early days to determine whether politicians or entrepreneurs took advantage of the desperate situation to make a quick profit.

In February, the prosecutor opened an investigation into the brother of Madrid’s regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso, of the PP, over a suspect face-mask supply contract. Ayuso denies any wrongdoing.

Separately, a court is investigating whether huge commissions charged by an aristocratic entrepreneur and his partner on the sale of masks to Madrid city hall constituted illegal profiteering.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen and Inti LandauroEditing by Mark Potter)

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