ERE case judge summons former Socialist minister back to court

Magdalena Álvarez is suspected of involvement in the Andalusia public fund fraud

Former Public Works Minister Magdalena Álvarez leaves court earlier this month.
Former Public Works Minister Magdalena Álvarez leaves court earlier this month. Julian Rojas (EL PAÍS)

The judge investigating an alleged multi-million fraud relating to a fund set up by the Andalusia regional government to help struggling companies cover severance pay for sacked workers has once again named former Socialist Public Works Minister Magdalena Álvarez as an official suspect in the case.

The Seville High Court last week ruled that Judge Mercedes Alaya must rescind her decision to call Álvarez to the dock due to the accusations against the former minister not being sufficiently founded. The court also stated that Alaya might have exhausted “the maximum limit of her jurisdiction,” and therefore should consider passing the case to a higher court. Alaya, however, is insisting that Álvarez should be investigated for possible crimes of abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds.

Álvarez, the vice president of the European Investment Bank, served as economy commissioner for Andalusia from 1994 to 2004, during which time the severance fund was set up. It is alleged that between 2001 and 2010 an estimated 140 million euros was misappropriated. Around 20 former and current regional government officials, as well as high-ranking members of the main labor unions, have been caught up in the investigation. The Socialists have governed in Andalusia for three decades and currently share power in a coalition with the United Left.

The former minister has been summoned to appear on November 7, “in case she wishes to expand upon any aspect of her testimony,” according to Alaya’s ruling. The judge added that she believes Álvarez was “one of the instigators, in connivance with others, of the illegal procedure of the concession of subsidies” to struggling companies in the region. Alaya’s reasons for targeting the government officials are based on testimony from 14 administration employees, who stated that the ERE fund was deliberately designed to hand out the money in a discretionary manner that bypassed control systems. In some cases, family members of government officials received money from the fund, some of them never having been employed by the companies that received the subsidies.

After the High Court ruling, Alaya warned that she and the Civil Guard, the principal police investigator in the case, are “tireless.” She added that in a “short and intense” period the final phase of the investigation, which was launched almost three years ago, would have “far-reaching” conclusions. Alaya also made it perfectly clear she would not be bumping the part of the case that affects seven politicians with parliamentary immunity up to the Supreme Court. “The majority of the investigation is inalienable,” she said.

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