January 28, 2021

The judge in the ‘Neurona case’ files the investigation into the reform of the new Podemos headquarters


The Madrid judge investigating Podemos, Juan José Escalonilla, has agreed to archive another of the lines of investigation opened after the complaint by the former lawyer of the formation José Manuel Calvente, the one related to the reform of the new headquarters of the party, which focused in the difference in prices between the budget and the execution of these works. In a car of last January 12, to which elDiario.es has had access, the judge concludes that there was no “distraction of the money” destined to the execution of the works at the headquarters for “payments or works unrelated” to said works and dismiss the investigation for an alleged crime of misappropriation of these works.

The judge files the investigation of the alleged 'box B' of Podemos

The judge files the investigation of the alleged ‘box B’ of Podemos

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In another resolution, also dated January 12, the judge has rejected the party’s claim that your investigated status will be revoked and the dismissal and definitive filing of the case regarding the formation. Last November, the legal representation of Podemos made this request, understanding that after the procedures carried out, not even “a single indication of alleged irregular financing had been proven” and denounced that this situation generated “negative and unjustified reputational effects”. The judge, however, affirms that its regulatory compliance program for crime prevention is not “effective” and highlights “the lack of a true culture of compliance within said political party.” The prosecutor in the case, Lorena Álvarez Taboada, again asked last December that the party continue to be charged as this figure was “more guaranteed” although there were still no signs of irregular financing.

The investigation that has been ongoing since last summer in a Madrid court was opened as a result of the complaint that Calvente presented in December 2019 to the Civil Guard. The lawyer argued in that complaint that there could be “illegal hiring” to simulate expenses and thus take “commissions.” The agents prepared a report in which they appreciated crimes of unfair administration and embezzlement and Judge Escalonilla ordered a series of proceedings among which were the imputation of the Secretary of Communication of Podemos and responsible for the last two electoral campaigns, Juan Manuel del Olmo Del Olmo, the manager, Rocío Esther Val, and the treasurer, Daniel de Frutos. The judge also took a statement from Calvente himself, who on social networks had said that the case was “worse than Gürtel” but that in his statement he lowered his accusations and said that he had no evidence of these “self-contracts.”

The case has been deflating in recent months. In October, the judge dismissed due to lack of evidence the open line of investigation on the supposed “opaque” outflow of money from the fund to which the party leaders make donations for social projects, the so-called ‘solidarity fund’. The magistrate concluded that there was no unfair administration in the fund that Calvente defined as ‘box B’, a name that the opposition parties also endorsed. Days before, he had also agreed to annul proceedings that he himself had requested aimed at investigating the party’s contracts with the Portuguese consultancy ADB Europa after verifying that the Court of Auditors had proven that there were no irregularities in those contracts.

Now, with respect to the reform of the headquarters, the judge concludes that there is no record that with the money for which the works were awarded, “external payments” had been made and explains that the “divergence” between the bidding price – 649,936.68 euros— and the award price —1,361,055 euros euros— is due to an assessment of the works in the Basic project and in the Execution project “not in accordance with the market value”. As stated in his testimony, the architect who designed the reform of the headquarters, Manuel Campos, minimum prices were set through the computer application “Reference Costs of the Community of Madrid” which was not updated.

In the magistrate’s opinion, this downward valuation was made “in order to pay a lower amount for the Tax on Constructions, Installations and Works (ICIO)”. And he assures that Podemos has not delivered to the court the documentation proving the regularization of the payment of said tax despite the fact that it has been requested on two occasions. In his statement as a witness, the architect stated that once the work is finished, the payment of the ICIO must be regularized according to the real price. On the other hand, the judge concludes that Podemos did not put out to tender the rehabilitation works of the building in which its new headquarters is located, although this lack of bidding “does not constitute a crime.”

The main line of investigation that remains open is the one that has to do with the contract that Podemos signed with the consulting firm Neurona for the generals of April 28, 2019, on which the Prosecutor’s Office believes that “there are elements that determine that there has not been proven the justification for this expense, also resulting in [la adjudicataria] It is a company created “ad hoc” to provide the service ”. The company was registered in the Mercantile Registry of Seville on April 4, 2019, just three weeks before the generals. The contract object of these investigations, of 363,000 euros, was paid from the electoral subsidy and the investigators suspect that it could be simulated.

Before the judge, the Secretary of Communication of Podemos defended that Neurona rperformed the jobs that were paid and it ignored the use that the consulting firm had given to those funds. Del Olmo, a man very close to the current vice president Pablo Iglesias, explained that he opted for the hiring of Neurona because it offered him confidence in terms of his professionalism. In addition, the party provided documentation to prove the existence of those jobs for the A-28 campaign.

Last September, the Prosecutor’s Office asked the court to investigate Podemos only for the aforementioned contract with Neurona. Regarding the other issues that the lawyer included in his complaint, he assured that some of them were “rumors, suspicions or suspicions” while for the rest there are no indications that demonstrate the existence of criminal acts.

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