CORRUPTION PROBE

ERE case judge asks for parliamentary records to be handed over

Move comes after several suspects say regional officials knew of alleged fraud

Seville -
Seville Judge Mercedes Alaya.
Seville Judge Mercedes Alaya.PACO PUENTES

The judge investigating the ERE case in Andalusia, Mercedes Alaya, has requested a series of documents from the regional administration to determine whether its economic commission was aware of the administrative mechanism used to allegedly defraud a fund set up with public money to help companies lay off workers. Judge Alaya’s investigation estimates that 136 million euros of public money was siphoned off from the fund over a period of 10 years in illicit payments. Under investigation in the probe are members of the regional government, businessmen and labor union officials.

The fund was used to facilitate labor force reduction plans (EREs) in the region conducted by struggling businesses. Some 721 million euros was allotted to the fund between 2001 and 2010, when a more stringent monitoring system was introduced.

Alaya has given the regional Socialist-led administration five days to hand over the records of parliamentary budgetary approval sessions over the same timeframe, as well as the records of economy commission and tax authority sessions.

The magistrate’s decision comes after several people implicated in the case stated that the mechanism for paying the EREs was known to politicians in office during the period 2001 to 2010. Last summer, the Socialist premier of Andalusia, José Antonio Griñán, stepped down from post in what was perceived as a damage-limitation exercise as it was expected Griñán would be named as an official suspect in the inquiry. Twenty current and former regional government officials have been implicated in the investigation.

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