Palma de Majorca.—During his term of office as head of the Partido Popular from 2003 to 2007, Matas - also an ex Central Government Minister - spearheaded several large-scale projects in the Balearics.

These include the Palma Metro, new motorways, the Calatrava opera house project (the construction of which has not yet taken place), and the Palma Arena and velodrome. It is this last project which the Public Prosecutor has broken down into 26 separate charges of fraud and misappropriation of public funds, a scandal involving other public and political figures as well as Matas.

The velodrome ended up costing double its original budget and will probably go down as the most notorious case in Spanish legal history since the reintroduction of Democracy during the last century because of the implication of a member of the Spanish royal household - Iñaki Urdangarin, the son-in-law of the King, Juan Carlos.

Matas has remained out of prison after charges were brought against him to the date of the trial because he managed to find 2.5 million euros in bail money.

On the 25th of this month, three properties formerly belonging to the ex President will be put up for public auction, one of them situated in the historic centre of Palma. It was this property, known coloquially as “the little palace” which Matas offered as a guarantee for the loan of the bail money. Matas originally came from a Socialist family with Republican leanings. A trained economist, he began his political career with the Partido Popular in the Balearic Islands in 1989 and thanks to the support of a former regional President Gabriel Cañellas, was elected leader for the first time in 1996.

Matas then moved up a gear by accepting the post of Environment Minister in the national government of Partido Popular Prime Minister José María Aznar in 2000. He then returned to regional politics in 2003, governing the Balearics until 2007 when the PP lost to the Socialists by one seat.

Matas has denied misappropriation of public funds, saying the “little palace” was paid for out of undeclared rental on properties jointly owned with his wife.

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