Court revokes day release privileges granted to ex-Balearics leader

But disgraced former Popular Party official Jaume Matas will not return to jail immediately

Palma de Mallor / Palma de Mallorca -
Jaume Matas walks out of prison on October 31.
Jaume Matas walks out of prison on October 31.A. Martín

A Valladolid court has revoked the day-release privileges that the Popular Party (PP) government recently granted to former Balearics regional leader Jaume Matas, who fell out of grace after being engulfed in a series of far-reaching corruption scandals.

On October 31, the ex-PP official walked out of Segovia penitentiary, where he was serving a nine-month sentence for influence peddling while premier of the islands.

Under the terms of the day release granted by the Interior Ministry, Matas has to sleep in a social rehabilitation center and can spend weekends at home. This means he will no longer have to spend time inside the penitentiary proper.

But the court’s most recent decision does not mean Matas will be going back to jail immediately, as the ruling could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which previously ruled in the politician’s favor by reducing his initial conviction from six years to nine months.

The Socialist spokesman in Congress, Antonio Hernando, said on Monday morning that the judge’s decision to cancel Matas’ day release supports all the opposition’s claims that the former regional premier had been released “prematurely, unfairly and in a partisan manner.”

Before that, the Valladolid Attorney’s Office had already requested that Matas be returned to prison out of “social repugnance” over his case.

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In a particularly harsh document, the Valladolid judge notes that “there has been no re-education of the inmate, and since that goal has not been met, it makes no sense to grant day release.”

He also warns that such government action could “break citizens’ trust in the democratic system at a time of great social sensitivity to this issue.”

With over 20 pending cases in connection with the Palma Arena corruption investigation still hanging over him, and notorious for his arrogant and disdainful style, Jaume Matas came to represent an entire class of corrupt politicians in Spain.

His downfall created a significant headache for the ruling PP, although it would be followed by those of other party members who have since also become the target of court inquiries into wrongdoing – the latest being that of Francisco Granados, the alleged mastermind behind the Púnica bid-rigging scheme.

A few days before reporting to prison in late July, Matas registered as a self-employed worker, claiming that he wanted to work from home as an economist.

Earlier in July, the Cabinet turned down his pardon request, saying that the PP did not pardon officials involved in corruption cases.

King Felipe VI’s brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin is being investigated in an offshoot of the Palma Arena case.
King Felipe VI’s brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin is being investigated in an offshoot of the Palma Arena case.JAIME REINA (AFP)

Matas was originally convicted to six years in prison by the Balearics regional High Court after a three-judge panel found him guilty of fraud, influence peddling, embezzlement, document forgery and dereliction of his public duties for paying nearly €500,000 in public money to businesses set up by a former columnist at Spanish daily El Mundo, who wrote glowing reports about him in return.

Matas, once a highly influential member of the PP, is the fourth regional premier since democracy was restored in Spain to be handed a jail sentence. He governed the Balearic Islands from 1996 to 1999 and from 2003 to 2007, and in the interim served as environment minister in the government of former Prime Minister José María Aznar.

The case began after auditors found that a sports complex that Matas budgeted at €44 million ended up costing taxpayers €100 million. Subsequent inquiries later yielded enough evidence to launch an offshoot investigation into King Felipe VI's brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin and the latter's wife, Cristina de Borbón.

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