Former Prime Minister José María Aznar has admitted that he made a deal in 2010 with a Spanish company under which he would have been paid a commission if the Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had been able to go through with the purchase of desalination plants.
According to the online news site eldiario.es, which broke the story on Thursday, that commission fee could have been as high as €6 million ($7.5 million) if the deal had gone through. What happened instead is that Gaddafi was forced into hiding and then killed as his army took on rebel forces supported by Western powers, including Spain, in 2011.
After the story had emerged, sources close to Aznar were quoted in the Spanish media as saying that he been paid by the energy and technology company Abengoa to negotiate the construction of desalination plants, adding that the payment was “perfectly transparent and accounted for” with Spain’s tax authorities. However, the deal had never before been made public.
Aznar, who eldiario.es says received €100,000 as an advance fee and who would then have earned by percentage on a deal with could have been worth €950 million to the Seville-based company, enjoyed good relations with Gaddafi during the former’s time as prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004.
Aznar was critical of the decision by the United States, France and other western countries to remove him from power in 2011, commenting that it was "very difficult to understand a policy whereby our friends are allowed to fall while our enemies remain in power”.
El Diario has also revealed that Aznar had the assistance of a state official while he was negotiating with the Libyan leader on behalf of the Abengoa affiliate Befesa. Pablo Casado, who is now a member of Congress representing Aznar’s Popular Party, was authorised to receive information from Befesa concerning the deal and worked out of an office in the FAES think-tank, presided by Aznar, despite being a state employee at the time.