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Health minister under pressure to resign for receiving gifts

Ana Mato’s ex-husband remains on PP payroll despite stepping down from mayor’s post over Gürtel implication

Minister of Health, Social Policy and Equality Ana Mato reacts prior to an emergency gathering of the Spanish ruling party at the PP headquarters in Madrid on February 2, 2013. / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU (AFP)

The former Popular Party (PP) mayor of Pozuelo de Alarcón, who stepped down in 2009 after he was named as a target in the massive Gürtel kickback-for-contracts inquiry, continues to receive an official salary from the ruling party as an advisor, EL PAÍS has learned.

Jesús Sepúlveda and his former wife, current Health Minister Ana Mato, received gifts and other perks from the alleged mastermind of the Gürtel bribery scheme, Francisco Correa, according to a 2011 police investigative report. Correa is out on bail awaiting trial on a host of charges.

Calls for Matos’ resignation grew on Monday from the opposition Socialists, who voted to back its leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba’s demand for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign. The prime minister’s name appeared in dozens of line items in ledgers prepared by the PP’s former treasurers, Álvaro Lapuerta and Luis Bárcenas, as receiving more than 322,000 euros in questionable payments from an alleged party slush fund from 1987-2008.

In Berlin on Monday, Rajoy reiterated that the information was false.

There is no objective reason to fire him from his job; we cannot do it”

Óscar López, the Socialist organizational secretary, told a news conference that he found it “intolerable” and “inconceivable” that Rajoy has not removed Mato from his Cabinet.

According to the police report, Mato is said to have received luxury items from Correa’s group, including Louis Vuitton purses and paid trips to different parts of Spain and Europe for her and family members between 2000 and 2004.

For its part, the PP explained on Monday that it could not legally remove Sepulveda from the party’s payroll because he is under investigation.

Carlos Floriano, deputy secretary general for organization at the PP, said that Sepúlveda is no longer a party member and was asked by the national committee to work from an outside office. “There is no objective reason to fire him from his job and, for that reason, we cannot do it,” Floriano said.

Nevertheless, the PP official said that the party still backed Mato.

On Saturday, the health minister told her national party’s executive committee that she never took any gifts from Correa and always paid her family’s expenses out of her own pocket.

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