Spain's Podemos urged to explain alleged Iranian funding link

Leader of Spain's left-wing Podemos party Pablo Iglesias said he would be happy for police to investigate him and his party's finances to prove they were clean and transparent (AFP Photo/Jaime Reina)
Leader of Spain's left-wing Podemos party Pablo Iglesias said he would be happy for police to investigate him and his party's finances to prove they were clean and transparent (AFP Photo/Jaime Reina)

Madrid (AFP) - Spain's conservative Popular Party on Thursday demanded explanations from far-left party Podemos after the media reported that police had opened an investigation into alleged illegal party financing from Iran.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias "must explain... the role he played in the very serious affair of illegal financing by a regime like the Iranian regime", the Popular Party's spokesman in parliament, Rafael Hernando, said.

"If it is true, we are facing one of the biggest cases of corruption in recent years," he told journalists in parliament.

The leader of new centre-right party Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, also chimed in, saying Iglesias "must give explanations".

Conservative daily newspaper ABC and online news site El Confidencial reported that police were probing payments allegedly made to Iglesias for his work presenting "Fort Apache", a programme broadcast by Iran's Hispan TV.

El Confidencial said the US Drug Enforcement Administration had information provided by a former top Venezuelan government official regarding "an agreement between Iran and Venezuela to finance Podemos".

Police are looking into the revenues of media company Global Media, which is charged with producing programmes for Hispan TV, according to the reports.

So far the allegations are only based on an unconfirmed police report that has not led to any formal court investigation.

The company received 9.3 million euros ($10.1 million) from the Iranian government between 2012 and 2015, via a number of other firms, "to avoid the embargoes imposed on Iran", ABC reported.

Global Media deposited 93,000 euros between 2013 and 2015 into a bank account belonging to Iglesias, the newspaper added.

Police are investigating whether this money was used to illegally finance Podemos, which Iglesias founded just two years ago, the paper said.

A police spokesman said he could not confirm nor deny the media reports.

Iglesias said Tuesday that he would be happy for police to investigate him and that Podemos' finances were clean and transparent.

The media reports come as Spanish parties are engaged in talks to form a governing coalition following an inconclusive December general election.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party won the biggest share of the vote, 28.7 percent, but fell short of an absolute majority in parliament.

If it fails to get backing to form a new government, the Socialist Party -- which came in second place -- could try to team up with Podemos to form a government.

Allegations over how Podemos is funded could, however, make the party less attractive as a governing partner.