Spain’s new cul­ture min­is­ter quits af­ter one week over tax fraud

The Nation - - WORLD -

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.”

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