Wife of Spain’s PM Sanchez appears in court in corruption case

MADRID (Reuters) – Begona Gomez, the wife of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, appeared in a Madrid court on Friday to face questions about allegations of corruption and influence peddling in a case that led her husband to consider resigning in April.

Friday’s hearing is part of a preliminary investigation into whether Gomez used her position as the prime minister’s wife to influence her business dealings, the court said prior to the hearing.

Neither Gomez nor her lawyer addressed reporters gathered outside the court ahead of the closed-door appearance before the judge, who ordered the suspension of the hearing a few minutes after it started and set a new one for July 19.

Gomez has not commented publicly on the case but Sanchez has repeatedly and vehemently denied the accusations against his wife, saying they were baseless and orchestrated by right-wing political opponents.

The case was brought through a unique Spanish legal instrument, the “people’s accusation”, which allows private individuals to bring criminal complaints against third parties. Judges can choose whether or not to act, and not every accusation has led to a judicial investigation.

The complaint against Gomez was filed by Manos Limpias, meaning Clean Hands, an anti-corruption activist group led by Miguel Bernad, a lawyer and politician who has stood as a candidate for a far-right party in European elections.

Manos Limpias accuses Gomez of using her influence to secure sponsors for a university master’s degree course that she ran.

The ongoing investigation seeks to evaluate Gomez’s conduct since Sanchez became prime minister in 2018, the court said. Contracts related to European Union funds will be probed separately by the European Prosecutor.

In late April, Sanchez said he would take a five-day break from his duties to consider whether he would resign after the court said it would open an investigation. He later said he would stay in office.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Aislinn Laing and Helen Popper)

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