Spain's MPs to grill former bank chief on insider deals

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The Independent Online
SPAIN'S top-level corruption crisis deepened yesterday when the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of parliament, summoned the former Central Bank governor Mariano Rubio to answer accusations of insider trading today and the ruling Socialist Party's parliamentary leader, Carlos Solchaga, was said to be considering resigning. Mr Solchaga, a former Finance Minister close to the Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, declined to confirm or deny the reports.

As official corruption cases piled up, the conservative daily Ya cited aides to the Prime Minister as saying that Mr Gonzalez himself was considering resigning in the summer. They were quoted as saying that Mr Gonzalez was 'in low spirits' as a result of the Rubio case, a parliamentary investigation into the sudden riches of the former Guardia Civil chief Luis Roldan and the possibility of an opposition no-confidence motion.

Adding to Mr Gonzalez's woes, the Catalan Prime Minister, Jordi Pujol, on whose 17 parliamentary seats the Socialists rely for an absolute majority, and therefore survival, said it was Mr Gonzalez's responsibility to explain the corruption scandals to the nation.

A long list of corruption scandals during Mr Gonzalez's 11-year term had almost sent Spaniards to sleep until this week, when it became clear that Mr Rubio, 62, until recently backed to the hilt as 'a man of honour' by Mr Gonzalez and Mr Solchaga, was being abandoned to his fate. Mr Rubio confirmed he would appear today before Congress's Economics Committee to answer allegations that he used privileged information for his personal gain during two consecutive terms as Central Bank governor from 1984 to 1992. He was appointed both times by Mr Gonzalez, and the bank's operations were largely dependent on the Finance Ministry, then headed by Mr Solchaga, now leader of the Socialist Party's parliamentary group.

A vague and brief rebuttal by Mr Rubio on Wednesday, which fell far short of a denial, was immediately rejected as insufficient by both the Socialists, including Mr Solchaga, and the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP). Indicating that Mr Solchaga, too, may be cast from the Socialists' listing - some would say sinking - ship, the Deputy Prime Minister, Narcis Serra, said yesterday that Mr Solchaga was considering resigning. 'I would be thinking about it and I know he is,' Mr Serra said.

If not satisfied with Mr Rubio's answers, the Economics Committee could call for a parliamentary commission of inquiry which, in turn, could lead to criminal charges. 'I have the impression that, unless the contrary is demonstrated, quite a lot of the information that has come out (on Mr Rubio) has the semblance of reality,' Angel Martinez Sanjuan, Chairman of Congress's Economics Committee said yesterday. Mr Rubio did not serve a third Central Bank term in 1992 after Congress linked him with a failed bank, Ibercorp, whose directors had been disciplined for improper practices. In addition, the daily El Mundo recently published details of what it said was a secret and undeclared bank account run on behalf of Mr Rubio to veil stock market gains.

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