Nobody wants to make the key report on the Neurona case, which can lead both to the file and to the prosecution of the last piece of the open case around Podemos and its accounts. Up to 11 experts have rejected Judge Escalonilla’s order to check if the money that the party paid the consultant for the 2019 jobs was too high, and has asked the Police to find someone to do the analysis. Meanwhile, the formation of Ione Belarra has requested the file of the case and has provided its own comparison of the price they paid with what other parties or public administrations pay for similar work, concluding that there was no irregular overpricing.
Archived the case for the alleged caregivers of the children of Irene Montero and Pablo Iglesias
The Neurona case started in mid-2020 in a courthouse in Plaza de Castilla in Madrid after José Manuel Calvente, a former lawyer for the party, recounted for several hours a rosary of alleged accounting and financing irregularities committed within Podemos: from a ‘box B’ to irregular bonuses through the use of high public officials to take care of the babies of Irene Montero and Pablo Iglesias.
Two and a half years later, all the pieces that were opened as a result of that statement and subsequent testimonies have been archived except for one: the one that investigates whether there were overpricing in the payments to the Mexican consultancy Neurona for the work it did for the party in the electoral campaign of 2019. Podemos paid around 363,000 euros and Judge Escalonilla has been investigating for more than a year whether there was an overprice or if it was paid for work that was not carried out. If electoral funds were used, said the judge against the criteria of the Prosecutor’s Office and the party, there could be an electoral crime.
That last report, key to closing the case or sending it to trial, gets stuck in the Escalonilla court while the party faces the possibility of running for the municipal and regional elections next May accused in this case without that document having arrived . Up to six companies and consultants have rejected the commission and the instructor, directly, has asked the Police Economic and Fiscal Crimes Unit to look for “electoral consultants who could be qualified to carry out the expert report agreed on in these proceedings.”
On the list of accused remains the party itself, its founder Juan Carlos Monedero and the former deputy and former communication leader, Juanma del Olmo. Their latest movement has been to request the file of the case after making their own comparison: between what they paid for Neurona’s work in 2019 with other contracts signed from the public sector in the field of audiovisual communication. They conclude that the price paid and that the judge considers suspicious is “assimilable” to that of contracts signed by the Community of Madrid, the Ministry of Agriculture or the Córdoba Tourist Board, among others.
Podemos alleges in the first place that in the last year they have proven that the Neurona workers did, in fact, perform a series of functions in the campaign and that there were no payments for unrealistic work, as the witnesses and consultant workers themselves have declared. : “There are no indications that there has been any supposed little activity on the part of Neurona, which in turn can be considered an indication of diversion of the funds paid by the electoral coalition; which, together with the fact that there is not a single indication of use other than payment of the services, should lead to the filing of the proceedings due to the non-existence of a crime ”, he concludes.
Throughout the letter in which it requests the file, Podemos also highlights that Judge Escalonilla has gone from considering the making of 48 videos and graphic designs accredited to requesting an expert on the price of 370 files in total.
“It is within normal market values”
In addition, in the absence of experts, Podemos values the analysis that they themselves make of other public sector contracts for similar services. For example, a communication plan to develop campaigns for the National Rural Development Program that cost the Ministry of Agriculture 600,000 euros in 2020. Or the recording of the promotional video “I want Madrid” by Gracia Querejeta for which the Community of Madrid paid 144,274, 20 euros. Podemos concludes that they paid 6,250 euros per video, while in the rest of the contracts the average amounts to 37,418 euros. Analyzed for each minute of video, Podemos paid an average of 8,333 euros to Neurona and the rest of the public organizations 9,706 euros.
The party clarifies that the comparison they have made only covers the videos, while Neurona workers “covered more products and services.” “It is clear that the global service agreed and subscribed is at normal market values,” concludes Ione Belarra’s party.