PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain – A judge set bail of 3 million euros ($4 million) Tuesday for the former president of the Balearic Islands regional government, Jaume Matas, who faces a 12-count indictment for official corruption.
Judge Jose Castro also prohibited Matas from leaving the country and withdrew his passport, and so he will not be able to return to in the United States.
Matas, who was Spain’s environment minister in 2000-2003 under then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar before becoming the Balearic regional president, is accused of embezzling public funds, falsifying documents and money laundering, among other offenses.
“Given the seriousness of the deeds, (Matas) can be satisfied” that he was not ordered held without bail, the judge said in his ruling.
The judge set a deadline of April 7 for Matas, who led the regional branch of the conservative Partido Popular, to put up his personal bond or else he will have to go to prison.
Matas, 54, left politics in 2007. The charges against him are related to massive cost overruns in the construction of a cycle track in Palma de Mallorca and to the increase in his personal net worth.
The judge believes that, while one would have expected that Matas would provide solid explanations attempting to “disprove the tremendous elements of the charges against him,” his recent 15-hour statement actually contained very little relevant content.
Moreover, the judge came to the conclusion that some of the explanations of the accused amounted to a “joke” on his court and the citizenry and, in other cases, were “a bunch of nonsense.”
“It’s clear that Mr. Matas came to make fun of simple mortals,” said the magistrate in his pronouncement.
Regarding the construction of the Palma Arena velodrome, which cost more than double what had been forecast, as much as 110 million euros ($148.5 million), Castro says that, far from believing Matas when he said that he was not in control of that project, “it cannot be imagined” that the irregularities took place “without his mandate in some cases and his consent or tolerance in others.” EFE