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Ábalos telling the media why he will not resign as an MP. EP
Pressure piles on PSOE after party grandee refuses to step down over Covid face mask scandal in Spain
Politics

Pressure piles on PSOE after party grandee refuses to step down over Covid face mask scandal in Spain

José Luis Ábalos denied that he knew, said he was not accused of anything and decided to stay on as an independent MP

SUR

Madrid

Friday, 1 March 2024, 15:12

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It has been a torrid week for the ruling Socialist PSOE party as the growing scandal over the purchase of face masks from China during the Covid pandemic threatened to take out more senior government figures.

Last week it emerged that a close aide of former top party boss and ex-transport minister José Luis Ábalos was being investigated with others over illegal multi-million commissions for selling face masks to the government at inflated prices. The aide, Koldo García, had enjoyed a meteoric rise from bouncer at a brothel to the total confidence of Ábalos and others in the PSOE.

Questions since the story emerged have focused on what minister Ábalos, who signed off part of the purchases, knew.

This week, faced with mounting pressure from his colleagues to give up his seat in parliament to avoid the party suffering from accusations of corruption, Ábalos was defiant. Saying in a press conference that he was not accused of anything and resigning would suggest he were guilty, he instead said he was giving up sitting for the Socialists but carrying on as an independent MP. The Socialists immediately suspended him for disobedience.

Meanwhile, pressure is growing on other government figures over the scandal. The former president of the Balearics region and now Speaker in Congreso, Francina Armengol, was being asked why she had not requested a refund when a 3.7-million-euro consignment of masks linked to those being investigated turned out not to be the right type. The masks, paid for in the end with EU funds, are still in a warehouse unused, reports said.

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