Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán. / EFE

Supreme Court confirms jail sentence for Griñán and ratifies Chaves' disqualification over the former Junta heads' ERE fraud case

Also handed jail sentences are Antonio Fernández, Francisco Vallejo, José Antonio Vieira and Carmen Martínez Aguayo

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO

The Supreme Court has confirmed a jail sentence for the former president of the Junta de Andalucía José Antonio Griñán and ratified the disqualification of his predecessor in office, Manuel Chaves. Griñán, who is still a free person, is appealing the sentence to the Constitutional Court.

On Tuesday, 26 July, the court confirmed (by three votes in favour and two against) the decision of the Seville High Court that handed Griñán a six-year jail sentence for embezzlement and nine years of disqualification for a continuous crime of prevarication, and nine years also of disqualification to Chaves for the crime of prevarication.

Along with Griñán, the Supreme Court handed down prison sentences to the ex-councillors Antonio Fernández, Francisco Vallejo, José Antonio Vieira and Carmen Martínez Aguayo, who were sentenced to between six and eight years in prison.

The now ratified ruling by the Seville High Court, asserted that both former presidents were "fully aware of the blatant and patent illegality" of the fraudulently allocated ERE monies that distributed 680 million euros from the public coffers between 2000 and 2009.

Griñán, however, was very close to escaping a prison sentence. Two of the court's five magistrates – Ana Ferrer and Susana Polo – disagreed with the ruling, considering that the court should have upheld Griñán's appeal for acquittal on the charge of embezzlement, which would have overturned his prison sentence. Ferrer and Polo were also in favour of exonerating four other convicted persons, but they did not sway the majority.

Rejected appeals

Although the court rejected the appeals of Griñán and Chaves, in which both requested their acquittal, the Supreme Court did hear the appeals of other condemned people. Among them, those of the three ex-secretaries of the Ministry of Employment: Javier Aguado Hinojal, Juan Francisco Sánchez García and Lourdes Medina Varo. All of them were acquitted of the crime of administrative malfeasance. The court concluded that the former directors of the department where the mechanism for arbitrarily granting aid was created did not play a relevant role in the irregularities.

Juan Márquez, who was director general of Labour and Social Security between 2008 and 2010, did not have the same fate. The Supreme Court found him responsible for embezzlement and prevarication, but upheld his appeal with regard to the mitigating circumstance of reparation of the damage and sentenced him to three years in prison and seven and a half years of absolute disqualification.

Only these four appeals – those of the three ex-officials of the Employment ministry and partially that of Márquez – have been admitted by the Supreme Court, which has barely changed the 2019 sentence that had condemned 19 former senior officials of the Junta de Andalucía.

Public money aid

At the time, the Seville High Court declared it proven that in 2000 the Andalusian regional government and its Ministry of Employment set up a system of public money aid for companies that hired workers close to retirement age and also companies in crisis. However, the ERE payments ended up being made in an irregular way via financial transfers instead of the traditional subsidy file which is subject to intervention controls.

In essence the Supreme Court confirms the general thrust of the 2019 ruling, explained sources at the high court, who were unable to specify when the full sentence will be known.