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Almunia counter-attacks in high-profile Spanish football tax case

Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia was "astonished" at claims of a conflict of interest. January 2009. [European Parliament/Flickr]

Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia was “astonished” at claims of a conflict of interest. January 2009. [European Parliament/Flickr]

Joaquín Almunia, the Spanish Commissioner in charge of policing the EU’s antitrust rules, has denied accusations of a conflict of interest in the handling of an investigation into unfair tax breaks worth billions of euros given to Spanish football clubs, including Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Almunia criticised the European Ombudsman for issuing a press release revealing a confidential state aid investigation into four clubs the day before it was officially announced.

In a letter to the EU’s Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, the Spanish Commissioner also branded “intentionally misleading” a second press announcement, which claimed credit for the probe being opened.

O’Reilly, who handles complaints about the EU from the public, yesterday (16 June) published the 20 December letter and her 17 January response on her office’s website before publicising them on its official Twitter account.

Investors in other European football clubs complained to the Ombudsman because no investigation had been opened since a 2009 objection over the tax advantages. The other two clubs are Osasuna and Athletic Club Bilbao, who Almunia supports.

According to the 17 December release, the investors alleged, “the Commission’s inaction in this case might be linked to the fact that the commissioner responsible supports one of the football teams in question and was a minister in the Spanish government that decided on the tax advantages at the time.”

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This entry was posted on November 10, 2014 by in Competition law, Journalism and tagged , , , , , , .

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