Spanish cabinet minister faces corruption probe

Spanish cabinet minister faces corruption probe

The request stems from accusations that Blanco, the long-time No. 2 of Spain's governing Socialist party, accepted bribes in exchange for official favours.

The case originated in Blanco's native province of Lugo, in the northwestern region of Galicia, where Judge Estela San Jose ordered 15 people arrested on suspicion of influence peddling.

One of the suspects, businessman Jorge Dorribo, implicated Blanco in the alleged scheme to divert public subsidies to undeserving recipients.

For jurisdictional reasons, Judge San Jose referred the accusations against the cabinet minister to the Supreme Court, which in turn asked the Attorney General's Office to evaluate the file and make a recommendation on how to proceed.

The AG's office said it found sufficient basis for naming a magistrate to oversee a formal probe of Blanco's conduct.

"It is good that all Spaniards be treated equally before the law," the deputy leader of the main opposition Popular Party (PP), Maria Dolores de Cospedal, said Monday after learning of the AG's office finding.

The PP won a sweeping victory in last week's Spanish general elections and is in the process of forming a government.

Blanco, who besides being development minister is also the current government's official spokesman, said last week that he will not seek any leadership post when Spain's Socialists gather in February to set a new course for the party in the wake of its defeat at the polls after nearly eight years in power.

While ready to relinquish his post as deputy party leader, Blanco said he plans to remain a member of parliament.