Spanish industry minister named in Panama Papers resigns

MADRID, April 15 (UPI) — Jose Manuel Soria, Spain’s acting industry minister, resigned his position after his name was linked to offshore investments in the Panama Papers.

Soria, 58, is part of the administration of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which has already been a part of several corruption scandals. In leaving the government, Soria, formally Spain’s acting minister for industry, energy and tourism, also resigned his positions as congressional deputy and as president of the Popular Party in his home district of the Canary Islands.

He has not been charged with any crimes, but the documents, slowly being analyzed, identified him as a director in an offshore investment company in the Bahamas. Spanish media this week identified him as a director of the Bahamian-registered company, UK Lines, The New York Times said. Further reports linked him to a company, Mechanical Trading Limited, in Jersey, a British island off France’s coast and long regarded as a tax haven.

Soria initially denied his involvement in the companies and then agreed to explain his actions before Congress, but resigned after speaking with Rajoy on Thursday. He said in a statement his departure comes because of “information over events that took place 20 years ago” and “out of consideration for the evident harm” brought to his political party.

The evidence was found in a widening scandal known as the Panama Papers. More than 11 million documents were leaked from the Panama law office of the firm Mossack Fonseca identifying politicians and celebrities worldwide with offshore accounts, often used for tax avoidance in their home countries. Last week Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson stepped down after it was found he established a British Virgin Islands account, and British Prime Minister David Cameron was questioned over the shares he owned in an offshore company founded by his late father.

Soria’s resignation comes as Spain prepares for new elections after Rajoy’s Popular Party won the most votes in a December election but lost its majority in Parliament.

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