The judge of neuron case hit a big stumbling block. Judge Juan José Escalonilla, who led the investigation into Podemos in July 2020 after the complaint filed by a former lawyer for the formation, has been looking for more than seven months for an expert to take the crucial evidence from the practice Producing a report on the work of the Mexican consulting firm Neurona for the April 2019 general elections. The trainer wants to establish a price to compare it with the 363,000 euros paid by the party led by Pablo Iglesias at the time.
According to the documentation contained in the summary, to which EL PAÍS had access, the court order passed through at least two experts and two professional associations. But no one accepted. “It must be conducted by an expert in electoral affairs, audiovisual matters, campaigns or marketing. Someone involved in advertising, journalism…” explains Francisco Serrano, one of the technicians who rejected the judge’s request: “I’m an industrial engineer. I have never prepared an expert opinion of this kind and I don’t know it either.”
The magistrate ordered a test last November that prosecutors believe is unnecessary. The instructor’s order required the assessors to produce a report on Neurona’s accomplishments, which the judge himself considers already accredited: 48 graphic designs, 48 videos, and reporting seven acts of choice. But Podemos protested. The party claims that Escalonilla does not take into account many of the consultant’s other works – the Madrid court accepted this point and ordered that the expert should include the analysis of a further 143 files -; and that the company’s work went much further as it was “a global political, electoral, and audiovisual advisory service.”
Training sources add that in a market society it is difficult to calculate costs. “The prices are not legally fixed prices or tariffs. Not even the required service. The development of point products is not the same as having a complete campaign team that can cover all areas, available 24/7,” the party explained in a letter, citing the legal area as an example: “Not all law firms do not require all legal professionals the same for their services”.
The public prosecutor’s office influenced this idea when evaluating the report: “We understand how [Podemos]that the political formation may enter into contracts with the suppliers it deems appropriate and that the costs may not be reliably ascertained”. Although, yes, he thought it was “logical” for the test to be commissioned.
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“Quality and Quantity”
Escalonilla advanced his intentions in July 2021. In issuing an order extending the investigation period, the magistrate said that, among other pending tests, the practice of another more important duty of care was “missing”: “The issuance of an expert report on the price of the production of these videos and designs allegedly made by workers carried out, employed by Neurona Consulting, taking into account both their quantity and quality. His plan came to fruition on November 12 of the same year, when he finally ordered this document to be drawn up.
From there the problems started. No particular technician took on the task. Faced with the inability to find a specialized expert, on May 5 the trainer went to the Interprofessional Union of the Autonomous Community of Madrid to nominate a “trained expert” who could carry out the work, but the response of this group was negative. Initially believing that “it was a technical issue,” the association contacted the College of Telecommunications Engineers, which ruled out taking on the task: “It seems they need a professional in the field of communications.”
The University of Applied Sciences for Political Science, Sociology, International Relations and Public Administration – which has experts in the field of “social communication and political marketing” – also ruled out: “Our specialty is not what is required. The matters to be solved, including the assessment of the costs of a number of services related to design, production of audiovisual material and organization of events with the preparation of technical material, in no case correspond to the accumulated specialties within our qualifications”. Faced with such reactions, the professional association has asked the judge to address his decision to the Madrid Press Association or to an association of audiovisual production professionals. what he has already done.
Two years of research
That neuron case He will be two years old in mid-July. The cause that was born as a micro-process has deflated during this time. Judge Escalonilla has even opened seven lines of investigation, six of which he has deferred – in addition to three other derivative investigations, such as that babysitter case, two of which are already archived—. The trainer ruled out, for example, the alleged bonuses to party officials, the diversion of money from the solidarity fund or the irregularities in the reform of the Podemos headquarters.
The magistrate keeps alive the main part of the synopsis: the contract with Neurona. But he turned it around. At first he suspected that the formation hired the consultant for the federal elections in April 2019 and paid him more than 360,000 euros for projects that were never carried out. However, once a part was considered accredited, he commissioned the surveyor to assess whether the work matched the price paid.
Testimony as a defendant in the “nanny case”
Judge Juan José Escalonilla, Instructor of the babysitter case, has scheduled for July 21 the statement as the accused of Gara S., who worked in the press team of Irene Montero, Minister for Equality. The judge will question them after Elena González, a former employee who was fired from college, assured that she personally took them to the Podemos head’s home to take on childcare duties. The prosecutor’s office did not contest this appointment, but pointed to González’s “hostility” towards Montero, stressing that “it is not unusual for a friend to help another with two newborns, premature babies, just out of the hospital”: ” And without being paid for it.”
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