ERE CASE

15 new official suspects named in Andalusia layoff fund inquiry

Former Popular Party deputy for Jaén among those mentioned in Judge Alaya’s latest writ

Judge Mercedes Alaya, arriving at the courthouse in Seville.
Judge Mercedes Alaya, arriving at the courthouse in Seville.JULIÁN ROJAS

Judge Mercedes Alaya has named 15 more people – including a former Popular Party provincial deputy for Jaén – as official suspects in a wide-reaching investigation into the misappropriation of public funds destined to help companies pay severance to workers in the Andalusia region. The probe – which is widely known as the “ERE case,” after the acronym for a mass-layoff process – has now seen a total of 159 people named as official suspects.

The former deputy named in Monday’s writ is Ramón Polo, who was also a local councilor in the Jaén town of La Carolina. Polo is suspected of having been given an early-retirement package worth €31,722 from the company Gres de Vilches, despite not being entitled to the money.

The probe has now seen a total of 159 people named as official suspects

Among the other new official suspects is José Luis Montesinos, who is the secretary general of Fiteqa, a branch of the CCOO labor union covering the chemical sector. Alaya suspects Montesinos, a high-ranking member of the union, of having “included some of his members [linked to CCOO] in certain policies.”

Judge Alaya also ordered the arrest of businessman José Ángel Martín Moreno, the owner of a company called Gestifesa, which acted as a consultancy for companies seeking public subsidies.

According to prosecutors, an estimated €140 million was siphoned off between 2001 and 2010 from the labor-force adjustment (ERE) fund that was set up under the Socialist-led Andalusian government.

The highest-ranking figure to so far be implicated in the scandal is Magdalena Álvarez, the vice president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and former public works minister under the Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Álvarez has been ordered by Judge Alaya to post a €29,568,129 civil liability bond as part of the investigation, on suspicion that she was a key player in the scheme to hand out the aid during part of her tenure as economic and finance chief in the Andalusia regional government.