SUBSIDY scandal

Andalusia layoff scam suspect “got €249,000” from consultants

System of company kickbacks uncovered as case expands

The ongoing investigation into fraud allegedly committed via an unemployment fund created by the government of Andalusia is on its way to becoming one of the biggest corruption cases in Spain to date in terms of the number of defendants. Police on Thursday arrested two more of the 22 new suspects, which brings the total number of people being investigated to 82.

In comparison, Operation Malaya — the massive property fraud scandal in Marbella that broke in 2006 and is considered to be among the biggest graft sweeps in recent history — resulted in 95 defendants going to trial.

Javier Guerrero, the former general director of Andalusia's labor department, is considered the mastermind behind an alleged scheme to divert money from a public fund set up to help cash-strapped businesses pay severance to workers.

According to court documents from the investigation being carried out by Judge Mercedes Alaya in Seville, Guerrero was paid some 249,000 euros in kickbacks by the consulting firm Vitalia, a subsidy of Eurobank Group, which helped process the unemployment cases. Guerrero has been jailed without bail for a second time after the prosecution convinced the judge that he posed a flight risk.

The Civil Guard estimates that some 50 million euros was diverted from the fund. On Thursday Alaya called former labor leader Juan Lanza and Francisco Trujillo, Guerrero's former driver, to testify as targets in the inquiry.

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