EU anti-trust authorities said on Wednesday that tax breaks offered by the Spanish government to the financiers of Spanish shipbuilders were illegal.
Spain allowed investors to buy ships through an investment vehicle and pay less tax
The European Commission said it favoured certain companies and amounted to unlawful state aid.
Joaquín Almunia, EU competition commissioner told reporters: “Only economic interest groupings and their investors who have benefited unlawfully from tax advantages must now repay the Spanish state. It will not be applied to the shipping companies or the shipyards.”
Almunia declined to give a figure, but the Spanish government estimates it could be as high as two billion euros.
The ruling applies only to support received between 2007 and 2011.
It sets up a clash between the EU’s competition commissioner, a former Socialist candidate for Spanish prime minister, and his country’s scandal-hit centre-right government.