Spain’s legal watchdog, the CGPJ, said on Monday it would open an investigation into judges and magistrates in Madrid who have been receiving payments from a company for consulting work related to a new computer system for the region’s courthouses.
The announcement came in the wake of a story published by EL PAÍS the same day detailing how the Madrid regional government has been paying judges, prosecutors and secretaries for carrying out work on the IT system through global technology company Indra. A total of 32 jurists have received a total of €200,000 since 2011 for their involvement.
A total of 32 jurists have received €200,000 since 2011 for their involvement
A Supreme Court magistrate has opened a preliminary investigation to find out whether the head of the Madrid Regional High Court, Francisco Vieira, along with other judges in the region, may have overstepped regulations governing their activities by accepting such payments.
The Permanent Commission of the CGPJ met on Monday morning to analyze the situation. At that meeting they unanimously agreed to call on the watchdog’s Inspection Service to put together the necessary information to establish the facts of the case. Vieira will this week appear at the headquarters of the CGPJ to offer explanations about the revelations.
Since 2011, the Madrid regional government has had an agreement in place with Indra to make periodical payments to judges, prosecutors, secretaries and judicial civil servants in exchange for consulting work on the development of new IT systems aimed at improving the legal system in the region. A total of 32 people have been involved in the project, among them the head of the Madrid Regional Court, Francisco Vieira.
Evidence has been uncovered suggesting false invoices were submitted from the regional government via Indra
While Indra is responsible for paying the consulting fees, the payment orders come from the Madrid Justice Board, via a public affiliate known as the Madrid Regional IT and Communication Agency (ICM). Contractual relations between the ICM and Indra are being investigated by the High Court as part of Operation Púnica, a scandal in which Madrid regional politicians are suspected of taking part in a bid-rigging scheme. Evidence has already been uncovered suggesting that false invoices were submitted from the regional government via Indra.
The payment system was devised while Esperanza Aguirre was regional leader, but continued under the authority of current premier Ignacio González.
In the private sector the majority of companies hire IT technicians to implement new technology systems, with employees usually required to attend compulsory training sessions. However, workers are not usually paid for participating in these projects, unlike the judges and legal staff in this case.
The regional justice chief and the deputy of Madrid premier Ignacio González declined to speak to EL PAÍS for this story, but instead issued a press release explaining that an IT project to modernize the region’s courts was begun in 2011, as required by a law forcing the regions to have new systems in place by July 2015.
The regional justice chief and the deputy of premier Ignacio González declined to speak to EL PAÍS for this story
According to the regional government’s statement, “a work group was created comprising, among others, a magistrate and a legal secretary. The participation of these two figures is key to the first [of three] of the stages of the revision of the juridical infrastructure […].” Given the work involved, it continues, “the justice system communicated in 2011 the need to compensate the efforts of the potential participants in order to guarantee their collaboration […].”
A number of different legal sources have expressed their surprise to EL PAÍS when informed that judges and public prosecutors were receiving payment for work to create their own IT tools. “I don’t know if it is legal, but it does, of course, look very bad,” one magistrate told EL PAÍS, in particular given that these payments were “not made directly […] but rather through the back door via Indra.”
In the wake of the publication of the story on Monday, Francisco Vieira released a statement defending the legality of the payments, adding that all of the fees had been declared to the Tax Agency and were above board.