We can fight back on the Neuron case. The formation, led by Ione Belarra, has presented two new expert reports to try to prove the work contracted with the Mexican consulting firm Neurona, which Judge Juan José Escalonilla maintains under suspicion. The party has promoted this initiative after the magistrate extended the investigation that keeps the political force charged, despite the opinion of the Prosecutor’s Office, which asked to terminate the investigation after considering it proven that the company provided the services for which it was pay.
This movement by Podemos puts in the spotlight one of the last decisions of the judge, who has commissioned an independent expert report to find out if the money that was paid for the works corresponds to its real market price. But the problem lies, as the party insists in an appeal sent to the Provincial Court of Madrid, that said assessment will be lame, since it does not include all the work carried out by the consultant. “The object of the contract is much broader than what is intended to assess,” argues the political force in a letter presented this Monday, to which EL PAÍS had access.
At first, Escalonilla suspected that the formation hired the Mexican company for the general elections of April 2019 and paid it more than 360,000 euros for projects that it never carried out. However, that thesis turned at the end of 2021, when the magistrate himself considered part of the orders accredited. Given this situation, the instructor then commissioned an expert report —which has not yet been received— to assess only the works that he has considered proven (48 graphic designs, 48 videos and the coverage of seven campaign events); and compare the result with the price paid.
The Prosecutor’s Office, although it has supported the preparation of this expert opinion to exhaust the investigation, believes that its result will be of little importance. “We understand that the political formation can contract with the providers it deems appropriate and it is possible that the cost cannot be reliably determined,” the public ministry stated in a letter dated January 3, where it also further deflated this macro-summary baptized as Neuron casewhich has accumulated up to seven lines of research —six of which have already been archived—.
A larger report
In the appeal filed this Monday, Podemos has asked the Court to annul Escalonilla’s decision to order said expert “since the effective execution of the electoral campaign services by Neurona has been proven, terminating this instruction.” However, in case the court does not accept his claims, he has requested that the report be extended to “all the contracted services, not limited only to the meager material described” by Escalonilla: “The magistrate considers that the only participation that more than 20 members of Neurona, during the two months in which the pre-campaign and campaign took place, produced 48 videos, 48 designs and attended seven events. This conclusion collides head-on with reality”, reproaches the political force.
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The party also provides two new expert reports to try to prove that the work carried out by the consultant was more than those listed by the magistrate. These documents, to which this newspaper had access, include an analysis of the metadata of 1,400 electronic files provided by Podemos to the case on the material allegedly produced by Neurona; and a study of the Telegram conversations that five representatives of Neurona’s audiovisual area had with a training worker.
“Many of Neurona’s works were not ‘watertight departments’, but were integrated into the campaign team [de Podemos] to develop these services. That is to say, his dialogue with Podemos was not simply the sending, but in several areas he participated in a collaborative way (for example, in the design area) and coordinated together with the rest of the members of the campaign”, insists the training in his appeal, where he stresses that the magistrate does not take into account “all ‘non-physical’ services: meetings, conversations, advice or consultancy.” Therefore, according to the defense, the price paid to the consultant “is not at all abnormal or unreasonable, if we stick to both those agreed by the same party for similar services and those hired by other political parties.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.