layoff fund case

Judge makes first moves to name ex-premiers as suspects in fraud case

Five former officials from Andalusia regional government also cited by magistrate ERE investigation probing diversion of public money from fund to cover severance payments

Seville -
Judge Mercedes Alaya arriving in court this morning in Seville.
Judge Mercedes Alaya arriving in court this morning in Seville.Paco Puentes

An investigating judge has taken the first steps to indict former Andalusian premiers José Antonio Griñán and Manuel Chaves in connection with the so-called ERE case, in which alleged fraud was committed in the allocation of public funds destined for labor-adjustment plans (known as EREs), judicial sources said Tuesday.

Judge Mercedes Alaya also moved to formally target former Andalusian government commissioners Carmen Martínez Aguayo, Francisco Vallejo, José Antonio Viera, Manuel Recio and Antonio Ávila.

Griñán stepped down as premier earlier this month to avoid what he described as the further “erosion” of the ruling Socialist Party in Andalusia, claiming he was never informed of possible wrongdoing in the ERE fund, which was used to help companies cover the severance payments of workers they laid off over the course of a decade. A number of people who received payments from the fund were not entitled to any of the money handed out.

Griñán had stepped in as premier after Chaves left to join the government of Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

In a ruling, Judge Alaya said there are “precise elements” that point to “subsidies being granted outside of legally established procedures.” She said her investigation had reached a point that raised the issue of the immunity afforded the politicians identified in the case, in connection “with the facts being investigated.”

Making it clear that her arguments did not constitute a formal indictment, Alaya called on those she named to appear before her for questioning, “in order to allow them to defend themselves.”

The judge also said her decision was open to appeal.

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