4 Mar, 2024 @ 12:29
2 mins read

Pressure grows on speaker in Spain’s Congress of Deputies to quit, after more details emerge about Covid mask scandal

Francina Armengol, President of the Congress of Deputies of the Spanish government, speaks during the First Conference against disinformation organized by the Open Editors Club and held at Casa America in Madrid. (Photo by David Canales / SOPA Images/Sipa USA) *** Local Caption *** 49037664

PRESSURE was growing on Monday for the speaker in Spain’s lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, to quit, as more details emerged of her links to the Covid mask scandal that is currently engulfing the Socialist-led government. 

The main opposition Partido Popular (PP) on Monday described the speaker, Socialist politician Francina Armengol, as an ‘alleged necessary collaborator’ in the ‘fraud’ supposedly carried out by a network of political aides and business figures during the worst months of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020, and which has become known as the ‘Koldo case’. 

At that time, Armengol was the regional premier of the Balearic Islands, and is alleged to have accepted and paid for a shipment of face masks from the allegedly corrupt network, despite being aware that they were not of sufficient quality for use by medical staff as promised.

She is alleged to have only reclaimed the multi-million sum paid for the personal protective equipment three years later, just as the Partido Popular was taking over the regional government on the Balearic Islands after winning the regional elections there. 

PP spokesperson in Congress, Miguel Tellado, filed an official document in Congress today calling for Armengol to quit, ‘to do a favour to the institution [Congress] and to herself’, he said. 

“That way she can defend herself without hiding behind the rostrum of Congress,” he continued in comments reported by news agency Europa Press, saying that she should quit for reasons of ‘democratic hygiene’.

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

The company at the centre of the case is called Soluciones de Gestión (management solutions), and had little to no activity before the pandemic. 

During the health emergency, however, it won a government contract to supply eight million masks at a cost of €20 million.

Speaker in Congress, Francina Armengol, in a file photo. (Photo by David Canales / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

One of the key suspects in the case is Koldo Garcia, who was once the right-hand man of the former Socialist transport minister, Jose Luis Abalos.

Garcia is accused by prosecutors of having pocketed commissions of €1.5 million for acting as an intermediary in the deal. He is thought to have invested the funds in the purchase of three apartments and several plots of land. 

Abalos has also been implicated in the scandal, although he has not so far been arrested or charged with any wrongdoing. 

He has defended his innocence since the story broke, and has held onto his job as a deputy in Congress despite being expelled from the Socialist Party, which called on him to quit last week. 

Instead of leaving his role as a lawmaker, he has instead joined the grupo mixto, the mixed group of deputies from small parties in Congress, where he is now an independent. 

Also on Monday, PP spokesperson Miguel Tellado called on the Socialist-led government to be ‘coherent’, claiming that ‘no one understands’ why the Socialist Party would call on Abalos to quit and not Armengol. 

According to a report today in Spain’s El Mundo newspaper, the current territorial policy minister in the central government, Angel Victor Torres, will be facing the same questions as Armengol over his connections to the mask scandal. 

At the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, Torres was the regional premier of the Canary Islands, and approved nine invoices for a value of €12.2 million in exchange for batches of masks from Soluciones de Gestión. 

This happened, according to El Mundo, despite the fact that defective masks were found in the very first delivery from the company. 

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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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