MAGDALENA Alvarez, an ex-socialist minister and a ‘prime mover’ in the ERE fraud scandal, has refused to resign from her position as vice-president of the European Investment Bank, amid accusations of fraud and embezzlement.
Her announcement comes just days after Judge Mercedes Alaya, the investigating judge in the ERE case, slapped a €29.5 million civil liability bond on Alvarez for her alleged involvement in the fraud.
Ms Alvarez, who went on to become public works minister under Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, declared her intention to appeal the judge’s decision, calling the bond ‘disproportionate’ and ‘out of place’.
“I will have enough energy to show everybody what an injustice is being committed against me,” she announced.
The slush fund scandal – the biggest public money scam in Spanish history – saw a regional development fund used to disguise bogus early retirement payouts to individuals who had no right to the money.
The prosecution estimates that €140 million of public money were syphoned off between 2001 and 2010 from the fund, set up by the Andalucian government while Ms Alvarez was at its head.
It is alleged that Ms Alvarez was in charge of overseeing the aid fund, while 19 other current and former officials of the Andalucian Junta are also being investigated for fraud and corruption charges.
Judge Alaya feels that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Ms Alvarez, the Junta’s finance minister between 1994 and 2004 – including three of the 10 years the court case is focussing on – will be charged for her involvement.
The judge added that the fund’s payouts were ‘in flagrant violation of the established procedure’, and were designed ‘to avoid rigid legal requirements’.
Manuel Chavez, a former president of the Junta, criticised the judge for ‘destroying the honour of innocent people’.
Ms Alvarez insists that she will continue working to defend her innocence.