The former councilors of Ahora Madrid Carlos Sánchez Mato and Celia Mayer, in addition to the then CEO of Madrid Destino, Ana Varela, sat on the bench of the Provincial Court of Madrid on Monday accused of a crime of embezzlement of public funds in the one known as the Tennis Open case, the case that investigates the external legal reports that both commissioned as senior officials of Madrid Destino and that supported a complaint before the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office against the Consistory of Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón for the contracts he signed with Madrid Trophy Promotion (MTP). The three have defended their innocence in a trial that has lasted more than eight hours with only a fifteen-minute break. The PP accusation asks for five years in prison for the three defendants as well as 12 years of special disqualification from exercising public office. The defenses and the Prosecutor’s Office have requested acquittal.
The case for which they are now being tried began in mid-2017 as a result of the complaints made by the municipal group of the PP in the City Council and the Transparency and Justice association, linked to former commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, -withdrawn from the case- who accused the two mayors, in addition to the former CEO of Madrid Destino Ana Varela, of “prevarication” and “misappropriation of public funds” in ordering two external reports to denounce the aforementioned alleged criminal irregularities in the agreement signed by the Madrid City Council at the time of Gallardón.
The starting point of these reports was due to the refusal to make a report by the municipal Legal Department. For this reason, Sánchez Mato, Celia Mayer and Ana Varela– asked the Alemany, Escalona and Fuentes law firm for an audit of the Open Tennis agreement through the request of two reports that cost 26,000 and 24,000 euros, so they did not exceed 50,000 euros, a figure from which municipal regulations require a technical specification sheet.
The Prosecutor’s Office requested the dismissal of the case, considering that the facts for which the exediles of Carmena were accused “were not constituting a crime of prevarication”, because the two contracts did not exceed 50,000 euros, “which allowed direct allocation” of requesting the reports “to a specific law firm” without the need for the technical specifications. In the indictment signed by Judge Concepción Jerez, the magistrate did not attribute any crime to the accused. This Monday, the prosecutor has reaffirmed himself and has requested the acquittal of the three leaders.
Both Sánchez Mato and Mayer and Varela have declared this Monday before the court of the Provincial Court of Madrid to defend their innocence. The leader of the United Left, currently an advisor to the Ministry of Equality like Mayer, has maintained that what motivated his action was an “excessive zeal” in the use of public funds, for which he asked for an opinion on these contracts from the legal advice of the Consistory both from his position as vice president of Madrid Destino and later as delegate of Economy and Finance of the Government of Now Madrid directed by Manuela Carmena.
Sánchez has described these five years of criminal proceedings as a “political attack and settling of scores” by the PP that have tried to “ruin” his life, but “have not succeeded” whatever the ruling. For her part, Celia Mayer recalled that when these contracts were signed with the lawyers who wrote the reports, she was on maternity leave, so she could not “participate” in them.
“I also want to allude to the professional and personal cost that this process has had. These same arguments were demonstrated in the investigation phase and despite this we have been with a stigmatization of this jail request with professional and professional consequences, which have been immense”, Mayer lamented.
The Prosecutor’s Office asks for the acquittal
As Sánchez Mato’s lawyer, Isabel Elbal, explained to elDiario.es, “the innocence of the three defendants has been proven, as well as the need for those reports.” Elbal explains that one of the witnesses, the then legal director of the Madrid City Council who was not accused, has reiterated the legality of the contracts and their necessity. Also the lawyers who made the reports “have maintained their reports, denouncing that there was a lot of opacity in the Gallardón Government’s contract with the Madrid Open de Tenis.”
The lawyer of the popular municipal group has defended that legal advice was sought “not necessary” with “private interests” and “backs to the regulations.” She for her has been reiterated in the request for five years in prison and twelve years of disqualification.
The Madrid Prosecutor’s Office, which had already requested the dismissal of the case, has reaffirmed that it sees no crime in its actions and has reiterated its request that the three defendants be acquitted. For the prosecutor it is not understood that the crime existed and that they have been seated on the bench. The defenses of Sánchez Mato, Mayer and Varela have asked that they be acquitted and, in addition, that the Popular Municipal Group be ordered to pay the costs, since they believe that there was “bad faith” in the complaint. The trial has been seen for sentencing.