Magdalena Álvarez was finance chief at the Junta before being a minister under Zapatero. :: SUR
Judge Mercedes Alaya considers Magdalena Álvarez, who was in charge of the economy department of the Junta de Andalucía’s for a ten year period (before becoming a government minister), as a “prime mover in collusion with others” in creating a fund to help companies with EREs ‘expedientes de regulacíon de empleo’ (severance pay for mass staff lay-offs)which was illegal. The fund was also the origin of the ERE fraud scandal in which 17 million euros was paid out erroneously, either through ineptitude or as an act of deliberate corruption to those not eligible.
Alaya, the investigating judge in the ERE case, maintains that Álvarez and others in charge at the Junta set up a system to transfer funds through annual approved budgets which was “in flagrant violation of the established procedure” and was designed to avoid the “rigid legal requirements” so that opaque and arbitrary payments could be made.
The judge has retained this theory since the decree of June 28th 2013 which named Álvarez and a further 19 Junta staff as suspects of committing fraud. Two citations in October and November called all 20 to make statements in court about their involvement in the case.
This week Alaya announced that she has imposed a 29.5 million euro civil liability bond on Álvarez whom she suspects of corruption and embezzlement. Two others, serving under Álvarez - who was the Junta’s economy chief and in charge of the budget and tax departments between 1994 and 2004 - have been ordered to pay bonds. These are the ex-vice councillor of the tax department, José Salgueiro, and the director general of the budgets section, Antonio Estepa, whose bonds are 22 million euros and 8.8 million euros respectively.
Magdalena Álvarez, currently vice president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and former government minister of Fomento (public works), has put out a statement in response, declaring her intention to appeal the decision. In her opinion, the bond is “disproportionate” and “out of place” since she is currently going through an appeals process which will be decided on April 23rd.
Álvarez has also stated that she will continue “working to defend my innocence”.
Manuel Chaves, ex-president of the Junta, has criticised the judge, saying that “Alaya is destroying the honour of innocent people”.