29 Feb, 2024 @ 11:19
3 mins read

Judge investigating Covid mask corruption scandal points to former Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos as an ‘intermediary’, despite his claims he did nothing wrong

jose luis abalos
jose luis abalos

THE High Court judge investigating an alleged corruption ring involving the sale of masks during the worst days of the Covid-19 pandemic has pointed to former Socialist Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos as an ‘intermediary’ for the company at the centre of the scandal, despite his claims that he did nothing wrong

In a court document signed on February 7, and to which Spanish media outlets have had access, Judge Ismael Moreno wrote that ‘the observation of communications and the operational activity carried out by the acting unit [of the Guardia Civil] have allowed for the conclusion that these intermediaries would be Jose Luis Abalos […].’ 

Abalos, who was a minister in the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez from 2018 to 2021, has not been arrested as part of the investigation and enjoys immunity from lower courts thanks to his position as a lawmaker in the Congress of Deputies. 

He is, however, no longer a representative of the Socialist Party (PSOE) in Congress and has passed to what is called the grupo mixto, a group of smaller parties and independents in the lower house of parliament.

He did so after refusing calls from the Socialist Party to quit as a deputy. 

The scandal broke on February 2 when a series of 20 arrests were made. Among those detained was Abalos’s former assistant and right-hand man, Koldo Garcia Izaguirre

jose luis abalos
Former minister Jose Luis Abalos.

The arrests came based on accusations by anti-corruption prosecutors that Garcia accepted payments while acting as an intermediary between the Spanish government and a company called Soluciones de Gestion y Apoyo a las Empresas SL. 

Garcia is suspected to have taken illegal commissions after he assisted the company in its bid to win contracts to supply much-in-demand face masks to Adif, which is Spain’s state railway infrastructure company, as well as the country’s ports.

On Monday of this week, the PSOE demanded that Abalos quit as a deputy in Congress. But the next day he refused to go, claiming he had done nothing wrong. 

According to the judge’s findings, which were widely reported on today in the Spanish media, Abalos acted as an intermediary in a bid to help Soluciones de Gestión with problems it was having in the Balearic Islands. 

The regional government there purchased nearly 1.5 million FFP2 masks from the company at the centre of the scandal, paying €3.7 million for the personal protection equipment (PPE) in the spring of 2020.

However, when the delivery arrived the PPE actually turned out to be surgical masks, which offer a lower level of protection and were unsuitable for use by healthcare staff. 

Three years later, the PSOE-led regional government in the Balearics began legal proceedings to get its money back. By August of last year, after the conservative Partido Popular had taken power in the islands, the regional government officially notified the company of its intention to recoup €2.6 million of the amount originally paid for the masks. 

Judge Ismael Moreno based his findings about Abalos on a report from the UCO unit of the Guardia Civil, which was monitoring the communications of the suspects in the case, including Koldo Garcia. 

The former right-hand man of Abalos made a call to businessman Juan Carlos Cueto, considered to be one of the ringleaders of the corrupt network, telling him that ‘everything is on the right track’, in reference to the problems in the Balearic Islands. 

Another series of calls and comments were what led the judge to conclude that Abalos was acting as an intermediary to solve the problems over the sale of the masks. 

Of particular note was a meeting between Garcia and Abalos in a seafood restaurant in Madrid on January 10, 2024, a day after a conversation between Garcia and Cueto when the latter requested that he pass on a message to a third party, presumably Abalos. 

On Thursday, the Socialist Party sought to brush off the latest revelations about the judge’s findings and the reaction in the press. 

Socialist spokesperson in Congress, Patxi Lopez, called some of the reports ‘delusional’ and said that they were just seeking to ‘sully for the sake of sullying’, adding that a ‘businessman meets with a lot of people’. 

As for the meeting in the restaurant between Abalos and Koldo Garcia, Lopez said: “I wouldn’t say that going for lunch is any kind of crime, because he was his assistant until shortly before.”

The Koldo case will complicate matters further for Prime Minister Sanchez, who is governing in a minority along with leftist alliance Sumar, which is his junior coalition partner. The administration needs the support of smaller regional parties if it is to pass legislation in Congress, including the all-important budget. 

This arrangement is already under massive strain due to the demands of a pro-Catalan independence party, Junts pel Si, which is using the PSOE’s dependence on its votes to gain political advantage in its quest to secede from Spain. 


The Koldo case came to light on February 20, when 20 people – including Koldo Garcia – were arrested by Spain’s Guardia Civil for their alleged involvement in the scandal. 

The company at the centre of the case had barely any economic activity until it won the contract for eight million masks at a cost of €20 million. 

Garcia is accused by prosecutors of having pocketed commissions of €1.5 million, which he is thought to have invested in the purchase of three apartments and several plots of land. 

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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