Former Socialist minister named as target in Andalusia layoff case

Judge holds ex-Public Works chief responsible for “laying down the rules” for allegedly illicit budget transfers

An archive photograph from 2008 of the former minister Magdalena Álvarez.
An archive photograph from 2008 of the former minister Magdalena Álvarez.Gustavo Cuevas (EFE)

Former Public Works Minister Magdalena Álvarez on Tuesday was formally named in an ongoing investigation into a fraud scandal involving an Andalusia government fund used to help pay jobless benefits.

Seville Judge Mercedes Alaya said the former Socialist minister, who also served as economic and finance chief for the regional government from 1994 to 2004, “laid down the rules” in how the money was transferred from the Andalusia budget into the fund. Álvarez is currently the vice president for Trans-European Networks at the European Investment Bank (EIB).

“Now is the time to take a qualitative step in the investigation and determine the participation of other persons and their activities [...] which would have allowed the misuse of fund transfers, resulting in the waste of public funds,” the judge wrote in her ruling released on Tuesday.

Alaya, who has been conducting the inquiry for more than a year, also named 19 current and former officials of Andalusia’s Socialist government for allegedly misusing public money.

The fund was set up by the government to help cash-strapped businesses to pay severance pay to laid-off workers. However, the investigation so far has shown that hundreds of people, such as family members of certain officials, illegally received money from the fund, including those who never worked at any of the companies that benefited from the trust. Judge Alaya has found that some 136 million euros of public money may have been embezzled between 2001 and 2010.

The scandal has rocked the Socialists who have been governing Spain’s largest region for nearly 30 years.

The judge has already ordered several former officials held in preventive custody, including Francisco Javier Guerrero, the region’s former labor chief. Other targets of her investigation have also been arrested but released after posting bail.

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