• Court investigates disappearance of 741 million euros of aid
  • Alleged corruption racket operated between 2000 and 2010

Spain’s anti-corruption prosecutors requested a prison sentence for the former president of the main opposition Socialist Party, Jose Antonio Grinan, as part of the court investigation into the alleged embezzlement of about 742 million euros ($829 million) of public money that was supposed to pay benefits for the unemployed.

Grinan, who also served as regional president of Andalusia, may be charged with dereliction of duty as well as misappropriation of public funds, according to a Sept. 15 court filing from the prosecutors office in Seville. The prosecutors are seeking a six-year jail term for Grinan if he’s found guilty and asking for his predecessor as both the Socialists’ party head and Andalusian leader, Manuel Chaves, to be barred from public office for 10 years. The southern region where the alleged offenses were committed has the highest unemployment rate in Europe.

Both Grinan and Chaves say they are innocent, according to the Andalusian Socialist Party. Calls to Grinan’s lawyer Friday weren’t answered while Chaves’s representative wasn’t immediately available to comment.

The prosecutors’ request may detract attention from the corruption problems facing the Socialists’ historic rivals, the People’s Party, which has seen waves of allegations affecting even its leader, caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. PP Senator Rita Barbera resigned from the party these week, defying party calls that she give up her Senate seat. Staying in office allows her to cling on to the legal privileges conferred by her office. Both Rajoy and Barbera deny any wrongdoing.

The probe into the Andalusian Socialists also complicates life for Susana Diaz, the current leader of the region, who has been challenging the authority of national party leader Pedro Sanchez. Sanchez is seeking ways to form a governing majority after nine months of political gridlock while Diaz has urged him to accept that his role is as opposition leader.

“I firmly believe in the innocence of both” Grinan and Chaves, Diaz told reporters in Seville. “They have accepted political responsibility,” she added. Both have already stepped down from all their political positions.

Prosecutors also requested former European Investment Bank Vice President Magdalena Alvarez be barred from public office for 10 years and at least five other officials from the region are under suspicion. A total of 26 people may eventually face charges.

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