Car trouble forces whip to resign

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MADRID - It was double-parking the flash, green V-12 Jag last month that led to Jose Maria Mohedano's downfall. The ruling Spanish Socialist Party's deputy chief whip arrived back at the car just in time to sign the parking warden's ticket, writes Phil Davison.

The trouble was, the Jaguar was not his. It belonged to a a company owned by a shadowy, oft-bankrupt businessman long suspected of fraud, known as Jose Luis Gomez Pinto or Jose Luis Pinto Fontan. The daily El Pais recently described him as 'better known for his debts than for his (construction) works'.

Mr Mohedano, under strong party pressure, finally resigned yesterday from the parliamentary job. He had been secretary-general of the party's group in the Congress of Deputies, number two to the new chief whip, the former finance minister Carlos Solchaga. Mr Mohedano insisted he saw nothing wrong in what he had done but said he did not wish to damage the party's image.

The word was that Mr Solchaga had forced out Mr Mohedano, 45, in line with Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez's much-heralded policy of cleaning up his party's act. Mr Mohedano's indignation, it was said, was over the fact that accepting cars, commissions and other assorted freebies has been par for the course within the party since it came to office in 1982.

Mr Gonzalez has tried to blame the many alleged corruption cases linked with the party on the followers of its deputy leader and former deputy prime minister, Alfonso Guerra. A source close to Mr Guerra warned yesterday of the 'danger of a 'people in glass houses' syndrome'. He appeared to imply that, if the system of influencismo (using political influence for business gain) was deemed dirty, dirt was likely to be thrown by all sides.