By Humphrey Carter
Photo: P. Bota
BALEARIC government spokesperson, Tourism Minister Joan Flaquer, yesterday made a public apology on behalf of the government over the Rasputin scandal which has not only rocked the Balearics, but caused political ripples all the way to central government.

Amidst calls from Madrid for a full explanation into the affair which has led to the resignation of the former head of the Balearic government's tourism promotion department, Juan Carlos Alía, after it was revealed that included in his expenses for an official trip to Moscow, were receipts for drinks at a top strip club in the Russian capital.

Flaquer, one of the Balearic delegates on the visit led by President Jaume Matas, yesterday publically apologised for the “unfortunate error.” However, the apology fell, on deaf ears and Flaquer refused to provide any further details about the trip, claiming that he will give a more in depth explanation to parliament when it resists after the summer recess.

He did however categorically deny that neither he nor the Balearics president were among the group of seven who went to the top strip club after an official dinner and that he will not reveal the identity of those who spent the evening at the Rasputin Club. “When the work is over, people can do what they like in the private life and their free time and I am not obliged to ask who did or who didn't accompany him to the club,” said Flaquer.

As far as the Tourism Minister is concerned, Alia thought the receipts, in Russian and with strange symbols, corresponded to other financial transaction. “I know it's difficult to understand a mistake of this magnitude,” Flaquer admitted, adding that he is aware of the damage this scandal could do to the Balearics tourism image. “We're far from pleased that we (the Balearics) have made front pages of many newspapers and topped the news. “We've all worked extremely hard over the past year to improve tourism and no less, especially Alia who played an important role in improving relations with the German tourist industry and the Balearics' image over there.

Flaquer also praised the “exemplary” manor in which Alia took full and immediate responsibility for his “mistake.”

Socialist party MP's in Palma were neither satisfied with Alia's resignation nor the government's apology yesterday and urged the leader of the conservative Partido Popular party to intervene and demand a full explanation from his Balearics ministers.

Socialist Alfonso Perales claims that Alia has been used as a scape goat at that Matas, and regional president and leader of the PP in the Balearics, “should take some kind of action and make a public explanation.” Francina Armengol, spokespserson for the Balearic parliamentary group of socialists, repeated her call for Flaquer's resignation.
Armengol is holding Flaquer ultimately responsible for events during the promotional trip and not Juan Carlos Alía.
Socialist MP Antoni Diéguez opened a can of worms, claiming that this is not the first time leading members of the Balearic government “have enjoyed the nightlife” while on other tourism promotion trips and said that he hopes the public prosecuter will order a full investigation and call for all the receipts.

He said that an emergency sitting of parliament should be called so that Jaume Matas can provide a full explanation.
Suspecting that the Moscow incident is not an isolated one, he said “the people of the Balearics do not deserve this kind of image being projected overseas.” With regards to the strip club receipts being handed in by mistake, he said this “scandal” has also served to highlight the fact that members of the gocvernment and top ranking civil servants “don't know which receipts they're paying with public money and which they're paying with their own money.”


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