Acting Industry Minister José Manuel Soria was the administrator of Mechanical Trading Limited, a company registered in Jersey, according to documents seen by EL PAÍS in the companies register on the British Channel Island. The company was the main shareholder in Oceanic Lines, of which Soria has admitted he was chairman. Until now, Soria has denied having companies registered in tax havens.
The document, signed by Soria on December 27, 2002, show that he and his brother, Luis Alberto Soria López, ran the company until that day, when they dissolved it. The letter to the Jersey Financial Services Commission, revealed by Spanish daily El Mundo, describes the two signatories as “the directors” of Mechanical Trading Limited. At the time, Soria was mayor of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, a post he occupied from 1995 to 2003. Receipt of the document is dated in Jersey for December 2, 2002.
Soria’s name appeared amid the millions of documents released as part of the leaked Panama Papers earlier this month. He has so far denied being the owner of an offshore company based in Panama, as reported by the Spanish TV channel La Sexta and online news outlet El Confidencial.
The acting minister said it was “a mistake” that briefly saw his name appear on the list of directors of UK Lines Ltd., which was incorporated in the Bahamas in the 1990s.
“I want to know why my name is there,” Soria said on Tuesday. “I don’t know why that mistake was made.”
He explained that he will appear before the house industry committee, which could meet on Tuesday of next week.
“It is completely false that I had a relationship with any company, business or function based in Panama, in the Bahamas or in any other tax haven,” he insisted.
A day earlier, Soria had suggested that he would not be appearing before any congressional committees, based on the acting government’s attitude that it is not beholden to the control of the current lower house.
The Panama Papers so far show that 500 banks, their subsidiaries and branches registered 15,600 shell companies with Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based law firm at the center of the leaks, and that three of the biggest on that list were based in the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.
English version by Nick Lyne.