Prosecutors slam judge for criticism in case involving minister’s brothers

Bid-rigging investigation against Labor chief's siblings dropped

Prosecutors in Seville on Tuesday publicly blasted a judge who had criticized them for the manner in which they handled a bid-rigging investigation that ended with the shelving of the entire case.

María José Segarra, the chief prosecutor in Seville, issued a statement in which she said that Judge Mercedes Alaya’s ruling to dismiss the case contained “unworthy expressions” against her team “that don’t achieve anything.”

Segarra was referring to a written ruling handed down by Judge Alaya on October 8, but released on Monday, dismissing the case against the two brothers of Labor Minister Fátima Báñez García as well as four other building contractors. Alaya accused prosecutors of “errors” related to the manner in which they asked to charge the six men in April. They later decided over the summer that the case should be dismissed. The judge said that the prosecutors caused “some delays” in her overall investigations with their “useless efforts.”

The chief prosecutor shot back: “I have to express my surprise of the unworthy expressions contained in the ruling, which have absolutely nothing to do with the judicial process nor do they support any legal arguments that should be included in a judicial decision.”

Segarra said that the judge’s statements only serve to harm ongoing criminal inquiries.

Alaya and the prosecutors have been conducting an investigation into the alleged multi-million-euro embezzlement of a layoff fund that was set up by the Andalusian regional government to help struggling businesses pay severance to their employees. According to the allegations, people who were not entitled to money from the fund collected it anyway.

As part of an offshoot inquiry, Alaya was also looking into a bidding process for land made available by the local government to build the Mercasevilla market complex. Earlier this year, she targeted the minister’s two brothers — Nicolás and Eduardo — on allegations that they entered into a secret deal with a company for the land bid, which was awarded in 2006 when the Socialist-United Left coalition was governing in Andalusia. Both brothers were in charge of the construction firm, Juan de Robles. Specifically, prosecutors believed the bid was rigged because builder Sando won the contract despite the fact that the best financial offer came from the company Noga.

While the Noga group offered the government 158 million euros for the land, Sando won the bid with its lower 106-million-euro offer. The investigation, which was first opened in 2009 at the same time the layoff fund inquiry began, centered on whether the six builders had conspired and used their influence to allow Sando to win.

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