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.
From the number of defendants in the dock to the financial sums involved, the “ERE” corruption case produced some breath-taking numbers. The following is a breakdown of the figures in Spain’s largest ever corruption case.
The length of time former Andalucían Socialist President José Antonio Griñán was sentenced to by a court in Seville which found him guilty of misconduct and misuse of public funds. His predecessor, Manuel Chaves, who the judge said was “fully aware” of the ” patent illegality” of the acts in which he participated, was barred from holding office for nine years. 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. The scheme is known by its Spanish acronym ERE.
680 million euros
The amount of public money that was doled out to individuals and businesses who weren’t legally eligible to receive financial support under the terms of the scheme.
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.”
Somewhat paradoxically, the conspirators didn’t seek to enrich themselves off the scheme, rather they used the money as a means to buy the political support of voters and thereby maintain their grip on power in Spain’s poorest region.
Making it the highest number of individuals to face trial in a corruption case in Spanish history. The defendants first came under scrutiny when an investigation into the redundancy scheme at a wholesale market supplier was broadened to include the entire regional Ministry of Employment.
More than one million pages
The summary of the parent case and its numerous annexes came to 8,500 computer files and 379 volumes. In total, 1,100,000 pages, leading president of the Spanish High Court, Lorenzo del Río, to describe the case as “the most difficult in the judicial history of Spain.”
Although the scheme took place before Pedro Sanchez became prime minister, the timing of the sentencing couldn’t be worse for the Soclialist leader as he tries to form a government after November’s general elections. The negative headlines have served 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.
“No regeneration, no progress, no dignity #YOUAREresponsibleSánchez,” the PP tweeted.
Santiago Abascal, the leader of the far-right Vox party, described the PSOE as “the most corrupt party in Europe”.
“That is the reality of socialism: spending money on drugs and brothels on the money of the people left in misery,” Abascal tweeted.
Pablo Iglesias, whose anti-austerity Unidas Podemos alliance has signed a preliminary agreement to enter into a coalition government with the PSOE, said the old two-party system had brought “corruption and arrogance”. But he said Spain had changed and the opportunity had arisen to “defend social justice and guarantee the integrity of our institutions”.
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.”