POLITICS

Judge calls members of Podemos leadership to testify after accusations of irregular financing

The move comes after the latest in a series of accusations of wrongdoing by a former lawyer for the left-wing party, José Manuel Calvente

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias at a party rally in 2019.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias at a party rally in 2019.

A Madrid judge has called several members from the leadership of Spanish political party Podemos to appear in court for questioning after a former lawyer from the left-wing group, José Manuel Calvente, made claims of irregular financing. The Unidas Podemos party, which is made up of a coalition of Podemos and the United Left (IU), is currently the junior partner in the coalition government headed up by the Socialist Party (PSOE), and its leader and founder Pablo Iglesias is one of Spain’s deputy prime ministers.

As was first reported by Spanish news website Público, and was later confirmed by sources from Podemos, the magistrate has cited the following party members to appear in court: communication secretary and current member of Iglesias’s cabinet Juan Manuel del Olmo; party manager Rocío Esther Val; treasurer Daniel de Frutos; and employee Andrea Dedoto.

The citations were made at the end of July, after the judge in charge of the investigation took statements from Calvente. The former party lawyer has become a genuine headache for Podemos, having denounced alleged irregularities within the group, which was founded in 2014 in the wake of the so-called 15-M protests in Spain against corruption and inequality.

The aim of this type of investigation is to create a trial by media that lasts for months, and that then legally comes to nothing
Podemos sources

Speaking to EL PAÍS in December, Calvente claimed to have “suspicions of under-the-table payments” and of unjustified overpayments within the party.

Podemos responded to the latest news with resignation and criticized their former lawyer. “The judge is carrying out an exploratory investigation,” sources from the party said. “It’s a way of investigating that is prohibited and punishable in countries with the rule of law. It involves court proceedings that assume the guilt of those being investigated from the start of the investigation. The aim of this type of investigation is to create a trial by media that lasts for months, and that then legally comes to nothing.”

Calvente, who was part of the Podemos legal team until 2019, has gained huge notoriety in recent weeks. He left the party in December of last year accused of sexually harassing a colleague, a case that was shelved by a judge in July given a lack of evidence of “any objectively intimidating, hostile or degrading situation.”

As well as filing this complaint regarding irregular financing, he has also accused the party of plotting a “set-up” with the so-called “Dina Case,” which began when a copy of the contents of a stolen cellphone belonging to one of Iglesias’s advisors was found in the house of a retired police officer, José Manuel Villarejo. A judge is now investigating how another card that contained a copy of the same information was damaged and had also been in the possession of Iglesias himself. The High Court has cited Calvente to appear as a witness in September as part of that case.

Data and documents

The judge investigating the alleged irregular financing has also requested a wealth of data and documents, instructing the judicial police to identify who requested €55,000 from the party’s solidarity fund, as well as analyzing payments to two consultancies – Neurona and ABD Europa LDA – who carried out work for Podemos during the general election campaign ahead of the April 2019 vote.

The judge has also requested a report on companies where Podemos co-founder Juan Carlos Monedero appears on the governing board, as well as seeking information on how the party regulates its salaries, also asking for invoices and receipts associated with the case.

“With the accusations that are being made today, the same thing will happen as before: they will come to nothing,” wrote Podemos party spokesperson in Congress, Pablo Echenique, on Twitter in reaction to the latest news. “The objective is not a judicial one, it is defamation in the media. And when this one passes, more will come… and more. It’s been like this since Podemos was born. They are the rules of the (rigged) game,” he concluded.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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