Spain's industry minister resigns after Panama Papers revelations: Statement

Acting Spanish Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria addresses the media at the end of the Spain Investors Day forum in Madrid, Spain, on April 13, 2016.
Acting Spanish Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria addresses the media at the end of the Spain Investors Day forum in Madrid, Spain, on April 13, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

MADRID (AFP/Reuters) - Spain's acting Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria said on Friday (April 15) that he was resigning from his position with immediate effect after he was named in the Panama Papers leak and other media revelations that claimed he had links to offshore companies in Panama and the British island of Jersey.

Mr Soria has denied all wrong-doing, but said he was stepping down to limit any damage to the caretaker government, the People's Party (PP), at a time when Spain is facing a likely second general election after an inconclusive December vote.

In a statement, he said he had tendered his resignation "in light of the succession of mistakes committed along the past few days, relating to my explanations over my business activities... and considering the obvious harm that this situation is doing to the Spanish government".

Mr Soria's troubles began on Monday when Spanish online daily El Confidencial, which has had access to the Panama Papers - files leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca - said he had was an administrator of an offshore firm for two months in 1992.

Mr Soria called a news conference to deny any link to any Panamanian company, but as the week went by, more allegations emerged from other media outlets, revealing further alleged connections to offshore havens.

It is unclear as yet whether any of his alleged actions were illegal.

The resignation comes at a time when Spain is facing the likelihood of a second general election in June after an inconclusive December vote.

The latest polls have shown the PP gaining ground, despite a string of corruption scandals involving regional politicians this year, as voters tire of left-wing parties' failure to put aside differences to form a coalition government.

Mr Soria is the latest political victim of the Panama Papers, which resulted from what the law firm blamed on a computer hack launched from abroad, and revealed how the world's wealthy stashed assets in offshore companies.

Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was also forced to resign over the leaks.