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Magistrates’ Court

Local and national TV stations have been congregating for the last few days, in front of the law courts in Avinguda Alemanya in Palma de Mallorca, together with reporters from the printed media and Mallorcan radio stations as history was happening with Spain looking on. A tremendous media frenzy has been going for two days now, and will be going into its third day today.

All the fuss is about Jaume Matas, the former President of the Govern de les Illes Balears (1996-1999 and 2003-2007). Senyor Matas was also the former Secretary for Medio Ambiente (Environment) in the Spanish government of José María Aznar (2000-2003). The politician and former President of the Partido Popular in the Balearics (1999-2007) is accused of misdemeanours on a large scale. Charges include corruption, bribery, breach of trust, misappropriation of public funds, money laundering plus an assortment of other crimes and wrongdoings. In the main, the accusations are based on the Caso Palma Arena, the cycling arena built under Matas’ stewardship on the occasion of the 2007 Mundial de Ciclismo. The stadium’s original cost estimate was 27,000,000 €, but later a budget of 48,000,000 € was approved. In the end, bills were presented in access of 110,000,000 €, representing an astronomic cost overrun even by Spanish standards.

Jointly with Matas, his wife and his brother-in-law stand accused of similar charges and are being interrogated at the same time as him, together with the former director of Gesa-Endesa, a close friend of the Matas family. In all, a total of 30 people, politicians and otherwise, have been accused so far of wrongdoing in relation to the Palma Arena scandal.

Only a week earlier, court hearings proceeded elsewhere in Palma, involving María Antònia Munar, the recently retired Speaker of the Parliament in Palma, a former President of the Consell de Mallorca and an erstwhile President of Unió Mallorquí, a minor but influential political party in Mallorca. Her case is not related to the Palma Arena velodrome, but charges are severe and on a large scale as well. She is now free on a bail of 350,000 €, plus an embargo of 2,500,000 €.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 23rd, 2010. The time was 12:59:40.

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