In April 2009, the PP members of Seville council reported two former directors of the city's wholesale market for supposedly trying to charge an illegal commission of 450,000 euros in return for granting a concession to run a catering school. It was the tip of the iceberg and the start of the massive investigation into the 'ERE' case, the first part of which, the political element, reached sentencing this week.
ERE stands for Expediente de Regulación de Empleo in Spanish, and is a routine way for companies in trouble to agree collective dismissal. Sometimes it can involve legitimate public subsidies, except in the case of the scheme devised by the Junta de Andalucía under the former PSOE administration, money was given out without any validation or control and often to those who the politicians favoured most. Sometimes imaginary employees were added to a payroll in order to inflate the payments.
While none of those convicted benefited personally, it is alleged that many PSOE supporters got money. A special, opaque budget item was created in the region's annual accounts which has since been dubbed "the reptile fund".
In one memorable part of the trial, the former chauffeur of Francisco Javier Guerrero, one of the main accused, admitted receiving almost 1.5 million euros for companies he also owned, of which some went on cocaine and prostitutes for him and his Junta boss.
The present Junta administration has said it will try to recover much of the 680m euros, but after so many years, commentators and lawyers said it could be very difficult.