Spain says Eurogroup may block Greek loan if officials not granted immunity

Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos and Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (R) attend a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

MADRID (Reuters) - The Eurogroup of finance ministers may block an 8.5-billion-euro (7.44 billion pounds) loan to Greece if it does not grant immunity to privatisation agency officials from Spain, Italy and Slovakia, Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said on Friday.

In 2015, a Greek prosecutor charged three officials at the country’s privatisation agency with embezzlement for withholding interest payments and breach of duty in relation to a sale and lease-back deal of 28 state-owned buildings. The case is still pending.

“If there’s not a definitive solution for the situation of these three experts, the Eurogroup will block the payment,” de Guindos said in Luxemburg.

Greece would do “whatever necessary” to immediately settle the legal case, a Greek government official said.

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said he was confident the problem would be resolved and that he would continue to discuss the issue with Spain during his visit to Madrid next week.

“The problem has to be solved. We should not over dramatise it. The disbursement will happen and at the same time will find a solution to this problem,” Moscovici said on his arrival at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxemburg on Friday.

On Thursday, euro zone governments threw Greece the latest financial lifeline and sketched new details on possible debt relief, allowing Athens to avoid defaulting on bailout repayments next month.

Italy’s Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said the disbursement of the 8.5-billion-euro loan would continue as the progress on the officials’ case was assessed and that he was optimistic of a quick solution.

Reporting by Sarah White, Francesco Guarascio and Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Julien Toyer and Jeremy Gaunt