MADRID — Spain’s government has filed a lawsuit against the descendants of Gen. Francisco Franco demanding that they hand over a palace it says was illegally acquired by the former dictator.

Spain’s Ministry of Justice said Thursday that authorities have found documents indicating that Franco’s 1938 purchase of the Pazo de Meirás palace in northwestern Spain was “fraudulent” and that it should be placed in public hands.

The ministry said documents indicate Franco forcibly tithed local workers to help fund the purchase of the palace from a private owner during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War.

The Pazo de Meirás currently belongs to Franco’s grandchildren.

Spain’s Socialist government has been waging a legal battle with the Franco family over the past year as it seeks to exhume his remains from a public mausoleum.

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