'We are talking about tax justice here,' Pedro Sanchez said in Helsinki

Helsinki (AFP) - Spain’s prime minister denounced Friday a plan by construction giant Ferrovial to move its headquarters to the Netherlands, accusing it of not wanting to pay its fair share of taxes.

The decision by Ferrovial, one of Spain’s biggest companies, has triggered a political storm in Spain ahead of regional elections in May and a general election toward the end of this year.

The company said Tuesday that the move would give it access to cheaper credit and make it more attractive to equity investors ahead of planned stock listing in the United States, and would not affect its operations in Spain or elsewhere.

But the Spanish government accuses Ferrovial of seeking to benefit from lower Dutch taxes on corporate income and dividends.

Ferrovial’s billionaire chairman, Rafael del Pino, has been critical of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his left-wing coalition government.

“We are talking about tax justice here,” Sanchez said when asked about the controversy during a press conference in Helsinki with his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin.

“Tax justice means that those that have more must contribute more to the public treasury, paying more taxes, and that is the debate which is behind what Mr del Pino is doing.”

Sanchez’s government has angered some business leaders with a windfall tax on “extraordinary” profits of major banks and energy firms, to fund increased public spending to help households and businesses cope with soaring inflation.

Sanchez had already criticised Ferrovial’s chairman on Wednesday, saying “there are extraordinarily positive examples in Spain of great businessmen who are dedicated to their country”.

“I don’t think it is the case of Mr del Pino.”

Del Pino, 64, who controls around 20 percent of Ferrovial, is Spain’s third-richest person, with a fortune of around $4.5 billion ($4.8 billion), according to Forbes.

Founded in Madrid in 1952, Ferrovial operates London’s Heathrow airport, and its toll road division includes projects in Australia, Canada and the United States.