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POLITICS

Supreme Court calls ex-Andalusian premiers to testify in ERE case

Former Socialist chiefs José Antonio Griñán and Manuel Chaves volunteered to appear

They are suspected of involvement in a multi-million-euro scandal involving a lay-off fund

José Antonio Griñán (l) and Manuel Chaves in 2009. Ampliar foto
José Antonio Griñán (l) and Manuel Chaves in 2009.

A Spanish Supreme Court judge has called former Andalusia regional premiers José Antonio Griñán and Manuel Chaves – both of the Socialist Party – to appear in court as part of the so-called ERE corruption investigation into the alleged misappropriation of millions of euros of public money.

Magistrate Alberto Jorge Barreiro has summoned Griñán and Chaves to appear on April 9 and 14, respectively, to answer questions about their alleged involvement in the scandal, in which scores of people are purported to have received illicit payouts from a fund set up by the Socialist government in 2001 to help firms make severance payments to laid-off workers.

Their declarations will come after regional elections scheduled for March 22 in Andalusia, which is currently governed by the Socialist Party.

The Supreme Court is investigating the “direct or indirect” role the two former Andalusian leaders may have played in the design of the ERE fund scheme, which doled out as much as €855 million between 2000 and 2010.

Their declarations will come after the Andalusian regional elections, which are scheduled for March 22

The pair both volunteered to testify and claim they have nothing to hide. They will be appearing in court as “imputados,” which usually means that they have been formally named as suspects in the case. However, in this case, they will be classed as imputados without having been formally accused of a specific offense.

The case has been under investigation by the Seville courts, but a section has been passed to the Supreme Court at the request of public prosecutors. As Chaves and Griñán are, respectively, a congressional deputy and a senator, they enjoy aforado status, meaning they can only be investigated by a higher court, and not at the local level.

The Supreme Court has called three other former regional Socialist politicians who enjoy aforado status – Gaspar Zarrías, Mar Moreno and José Antonio Viera – to court to testify.

Viera is scheduled to appear on April 7, Zarrías on April 16 and Moreno on April 27, Supreme Court sources said.

The Supreme Court has not yet specified which possible crimes any of the five aforados may have committed.

After examining a report presented by Chaves and Griñán’s defense, Judge Barreiro has also asked experts at the state IGAE internal audit office to expand their inquiry into the use of the system by which the funds were transferred, one of the key aspects of the case.

The Seville judge investigating the ERE case, Mercedes Alaya, has argued that the Andalusian government created a supposedly illegal system to hand over the subsidies. Approved by the regional parliament year after year as part of the annual budget, the system enabled the fraudulent scheme to avoid state internal audit office spending controls, she believes.

Fe de errores

The first version of this article has been corrected due to a mistranslation of the legal term “imputado”. Neither Chaves nor Griñan have been formally named as suspects by the Supreme Court for a specific offense (which in Spanish would be to “imputar”), but for them to testify before the judge investigating the case they will also be classed as “imputados” in the proceedings, despite no firm evidence being produced so far against them.