Magdalena Álvarez, the vice president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and former public works minister, was ordered by a Seville judge on Wednesday to post a €29,568,129 civil liability bond as part of a criminal investigation into purported fraud committed through a regional government fund in Andalusia.
The judge also ordered her former deputy commissioner José Salgueiro to post a €22-million bond, and €8 million for budget secretary Antonio Estepa.
Judge Mercedes Alaya considers Álvarez to have been a key player in aid that was given through a fund that was set up by the Socialist government to help struggling businesses pay severance to their laid-off workers. Álvarez served as economy chief for Andalusia from 1994 to 2004.
In July, Alaya named Álvarez as an official target in the investigation, known as the ERE case, after Álvarez traveled to Seville to testify, but declined to order her to post a civil liability bond after a private prosecutor requested it.
The former public works minister under Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero could face embezzlement and corrupt practices charges, according to Alaya’s writ.
Even though Álvarez served as economy chief for a decade in Andalusia before joining Zapatero’s administration, the judge is only focusing on three years of her tenure in the 11-year period that the ERE investigation covers.
According to prosecutors, an estimated 140 million euros was siphoned off between 2001 and 2010 from the labor-force adjustment (ERE) fund that was set up under the Andalusian government.
During her testimony last October, Álvarez told Ayala that she wasn’t aware of any of “objections” made by auditors in the regional government in the way the money from the fund was being handed out. Later, she told reporters that her administration as economy commission was “clear and transparent.”
Manos Limpias, an obscure rightwing labor union that filed a private prosecution complain in the case, had asked that Álvarez post a €125-million civil liability bond while the Popular Party (PP) – which also has filed a suit in the investigation – left that decision up to the judge.