Spain’s new culture minister quits after one week over tax fraud
SPAIN’S culture and sports minister Maxim Huerta has resigned after it emerged he has been fined for tax fraud, in a blow to the Socialist government that took over only last week.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ousted conservative Mariano Rajoy with a June 1 no-confidence vote in parliament sparked by corruption convictions against former senior officials of his Popular Party (PP).
Sanchez won praise worldwide for appointing a cabinet made up mostly of women as well as for offering to take in a ship with 629 migrants aboard when Italy’s populist government and Malta refused them safe port.
But the string of positive press coverage ended on Wednesday when online daily ElConfidencial reported that Huerta, an award-winning author and television celebrity, evaded 218,322 euros (Bt8.2 million) in tax between 2006-2008 by using a shell company.
A court last year ordered that he pay over 360,000 euros to the tax office, the amount he tried to evade plus fines and interest payments, it added.
“I am stepping down,” Huerta told a news conference a week after he was sworn in on June 7, adding that the fine stemmed from a change in criteria used by the tax authority.
According to Spanish media, Huerta’s term in office is the shortest of any minister in Spain’s modern history. “I have paid this fine twice,” he said. “The first time to the tax office ... and I am paying it for the second time here, conscious that innocence is not worth anything before this pack of hounds,” Huerta added in a reference to a firestorm sparked by the fraud report.
He said he was fully up to date with his tax payments and stressed he had decided to resign “autonomously”.
The leader of anti-establishment party Podemos, which backed the Socialist party’s no-confidence vote in parliament, had called for Huerta’s resignation.
“We will not back behaviours which remind us of the PP,” Pablo Iglesias told journalists on Wednesday.
“If Maxim Huerta tried to defraud the tax office, he should resign immediately, and if not, Pedro Sanchez should dismiss him.”