political corruption

Convicted former Balearics premier avoids being sent to jail

Regional court allows Jaume Matas to remain free until government rules on pardon

Former Balearic regional premier Jaume Matas.
Former Balearic regional premier Jaume Matas.JuanJo Martín / EFE

One month after he was ordered to begin serving nine months in jail for corruption, former Balearic regional premier Jaume Matas was told he would remain a free man on Wednesday, after the Palma de Mallorca regional High Court ruled to allow him to remain out on bail until his request for a government pardon is examined.

Matas was convicted on influence-peddling charges in the so-called Palma Arena case and sentenced to six years in prison by a judge. But in July, the Supreme Court lowered the sentence to nine months and sent the case back to the sentencing judge, who ordered Matas to report to jail immediately after he determined the former Popular Party (PP) official had showed no remorse.

Prison sentences of under two years are normally not served in Spain by first-time offenders, provided they meet a number of requirements, such as expressing remorse for their crimes.

Anti-corruption prosecutors favored allowing Matas to remain free on bail until a decision was taken on the pardon, but the PP government appears disinclined to grant him one.

In December, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón said in an interview that the Matas case does not meet the requirements for a pardon. He also said that the government “never” grants pardons for crimes of influence-peddling.

Matas was originally sentenced in March 2012 for fraud, influence peddling, embezzlement, falsifying documents and dereliction of his public duties for paying nearly 500,000 euros to businesses set up by a former columnist at Spanish daily El Mundo. The former newspaper journalist Antonio Alemany, who wrote glowing articles about Matas’s administration, was given a jail sentence of three years and nine months in the case.