IT was a fund set up to stimulate employment in Andalucia, the region with the highest jobless total in Spain.
But in reality it did little more than feather the beds of politicians and their friends and families.
As well as paying millions for thousands of fake training schemes that never took place, millions more were squandered on golfing trips and even on prostitutes at brothels.
“The number of irregularities is incalculable,” said a former civil servant who first exposed the fraud behind the appropriately-named FAFFE (The Andalucian Fund for Training and Employment).
Speaking at a commission set up to investigate the scandal this month, Teodoro Montes, added that the only purpose of the quango was to make money for the PSOE party and its friends.
“It was set up to syphon off enough money for everyone to benefit,” he insisted.
But, as far as former PSOE socialist leader Susana Diaz is concerned she ‘knew nothing’ about it.
She told the judge at Sevilla’s Court Number 6 that she ‘wasn’t there’, despite the fact that her leadership overlapped by three years with the FAFFE.
She was being questioned about the case that saw thousands of workers in the dodgy quango moved in 2016 to work in the SAE employment service around the region.
Set up in 2003 the FAFFE opened up 52 separate offices around the eight Andalucian provinces.
Mostly set up by close friends of the then PSOE socialist-run Junta, at least 200 senior executives were close to the party or the unions.
They were happy days with tens of millions coming in every year from the European Union, ostensibly to train the local unemployed that in some regions reached 50%.
But, in truth, the majority of courses were either far more expensive to run than they should have been or they never took place at all.
There was so much money swilling around that it paid for golf trips for ‘important friends and family’ to Sotogrande and Granada costing tens of thousands, while at least €30 million was spent on entertainment, including nightlife and prostitution through its bosses.
One executive alone, Fernando Villen, was discovered to have spent at least €32,566 in five different brothels around Sevilla. In one, Don Angelo, he spent €14,757 in 2010 alone.
To make matters worse, the former director employed his wife, sister-in-law and a nephew in one part of the quango, which was used to buy political favours.
Another senior director paid his brother-in-law’s plumbing company Inmohel a staggering €700,000 in one year for catering, courier and rubbish disposal services.
Meanwhile, police believe at least 60% of agreements struck by the quango were done without the correct legal tenders.
The Junta itself discovered irregularities in 8,844 contracts signed between 2009 and 2011.
“The vast majority of the courses set up by the FAFFE had irregularities,” Montes told the court. “Many courses simply didn’t take place despite the grants being paid.”
He added that most of the offices hired by the FAFFE around Andalucia cost ‘three or four times’ over market value. “There were innumerable irregularities,” he continued.
Dozens of senior political figures have been linked to the fraud, including former leader of Camas, Eduardo Cabeza, as well as the ex-mayor of Lebrija, Antonio Torres.
The most implicated are Manuel Chaves, the former president of the Junta between 1990 and 2009, and his successor Antonio Grinan, between 2009 and 2013.
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Excellent article. Name and shame: the only way to rid the land of corrupt politicians… always assuming the judges are of a mind to risk their pensions by jailing corrupt politicians…. Keep up the good work, Jon Clarke.