The socialist government of Pedro Sánchez has claimed ownership of a property in Galicia which was used as a summer retreat by Francisco Franco. Earlier this year, the Pazo de Meirás was put on the market by the late dictator’s heirs with a price tag of around €8 million.

The palace was built in the late 19th century and in 1938, funds were raised to buy it and gift it to Franco from the people of A Coruña. On his death in 1975, it passed to his daughter and after she died at the end of last year, the family decided to sell it.

At the beginning of July, the Justice Ministry presented a claim alleging that the funds to buy the property were raised by forced donations, not by public subscription, and that it was fraudulently sold to Franco in 1941 after the end of Spain’s Civil War. Acting deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, said the government had a “solid argument, documents and legal position to defend public ownership” of the palace. The legal status of Pazo de Meirás is also being contested at a European level by the Galician MEP Ana Miranda.

The announcement from the Ministry came as plans to move Franco’s remains

from the Valley of the Fallen to a Madrid cemetery were put on hold by the Supreme Court. An appeal by his family against the Government decision is presently awaited .

Meanwhile, Spain is complaining formally to the Vatican about “interference” after a diplomat with the Holy See alleged that the plans to remove the remains of Franco have “resuscitated” the former dictator. Carmen Calvo said the remarks were “uncalled for and unacceptable both in content and style.”