Spanish health minister quits over graft scandal

[MADRID] Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato resigned on Wednesday after being linked to a massive corruption scandal involving an alleged kickback scheme at the heart of the Spanish prime minister's conservative Popular Party.

"I have decided to present my resignation," Ms Mato said in a statement, adding that she was stepping down for the good of the government and the ruling Popular Party.

Ms Mato has not been named as an official suspect in the corruption probe, but a judge said earlier Wednesday that she had "benefited from" holidays, cash payments and other gifts when she was married to Jesus Sepulveda, a former Popular Party mayor of a Madrid suburb.

The wide-ranging bribes for contracts scheme, known as the "Gurtel" case, allegedly extended to six regional Popular Party governments and operated between 1999 and 2009, when the investigation began.

The judge investigating the case said he had evidence to try 43 people for corruption, including Sepulveda and three former treasurers of the Popular Party.

Ms Mato is one of the least popular members of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government.

She was harshly criticised for her handling of the case of a Spanish nurse who became infected with Ebola after caring for two elderly missionaries who died from the disease at a Madrid hospital.

The kickback probe is one of a series of high-profile corruption scandals in Spain that have involved politicians of all political stripes, businesses, football clubs and even the king's sister.

Corruption is the biggest concern for Spaniards after unemployment, according to a recent poll by the Centre for Sociological Investigations.


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