Several former Spanish socialist leaders, including two former regional government presidents, were sentenced to prison and disqualified from public office for embezzling hundreds of millions of euros of public funds on Tuesday.
After several years of investigation, a court in Seville sentenced former Andalucían Socialist President José Antonio Griñán to six years in prison and disqualified him from holding office for 15 years for misconduct and misuse of public funds. His predecessor, Manuel Chaves, was barred from holding office for nine years.
Chaves, a well-known regional heavyweight of the Spanish Socialists Workers’ Party (PSOE), held several ministerial positions in Spain’s central government and was president of the Andalucía regional government between 1990 and 2009.
His successor, José Antonio Griñán, stepped down as president of Andalucía in 2013 when allegations of misconduct emerged, reports the Guardian.
In total, 21 former socialist leaders from the party’s historic stronghold of Andalucía were convicted of embezzling funds that were intended to support redundant workers and troubled businesses.
Between 2001 and 2010, the fund, known by its Spanish acronym ERE, received €855m from the Andalucían government. According to prosecutors, €680m was handed out fraudulently through a “totally opaque grants system” that operated free of “all the established control mechanisms.”
In their sentencing remarks, the judges said: “The political need to provide a rapid response to the big socio-labour conflicts led those in charge of the Andalucían government to set up a flexible system – a system so flexible that it ended up doing away with the legally established control mechanisms.”
During the trial, which began in December 2017, Chaves and Griñán denied any responsibility for the misappropriation of public funds.
The sentencing has undermined the moral high ground claimed by the PSOE, who came to power in June 2018 after a massive corruption scandal brought down the previous Popular Party (PP) government. The latter have been quick to accuse the socialists of hypocrisy and argue that their near 40-year dominance of Andalucían politics was only made possible thanks to the corrupt practices brought to light during the trial.
Following regional elections in January, Andalucía has been governed by a coalition formed of the PP, the centre-right Citizens party and far-right Vox, putting an end to 36 years of uninterrupted socialist rule in Spain’s southernmost and poorest region.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, the PSOE’s organisational secretary, José Luis Ábalos, said that the party had “absolute respect” for the court’s verdict, but added that the corruption, which took place between 2000 and 2010, “does not affect the current government nor the current party leadership.”
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