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By Jason Moore

THE former leader of the Balearic government, Jaume Matas, will appear in court in Palma this morning to answer corruption allegations over the construction of the Palma Arena velodrome.

Matas, who now lives in the United States, travelled to Spain over the weekend and he is expected in court at 10a.m. this morning. Also giving evidence will be his wife, her brother and one of his former ministers, Bartolome Reus.

The Palma anti-currption judge wants to know how Matas was able to afford to buy a multi-million euro home in Palma and a luxury flat in Madrid. Also, there have been allegations that his wife bought a large number of luxury items in top city stores always paying in cash.

The budget for the Palma velodrome increased to over 100 million euros from an initial budget of just 30 million and there are claims that part of the money was diverted to Matas. The former Balearic leader has denied all the charges.

Matas, who apart from being Balearic leader was also a minister in the cabinet of former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, was one of the rising stars of the centre-right Partido Popular until he was defeated in the last local elections by present leader Francesc Antich. Matas polled the most number of votes but was short of an overall majority.

Matas´ court appearance today comes after a whole series of local politicians who served in his coalition between 2003 and 2007 have been involved in corruption allegations involving the mis-use of government funds. Just last week, Maria Antonia Munar, a former political ally of Matas and ex-leader of the Council of Majorca and Balearic parliament, also appeared in court to answer charges that she mis-used public funds. She was released on 350'000 euro bail.

Matas spent the weekend working on his defence with his lawyers in Madrid.
Today´s court hearing is expected to be attended by hundreds of people including scores of journalists from across the country. Some of his supporters say that as a result of all the media interest and claims that have appeared in print about his finances, that he won´t be able to have a fair trial. His lawyer has said that he is prepared for everything including the possibility that his passport will be withdrawn so that he is unable to travel back to the United States.

All four (Matas, his wife, her brother and ex-minister Reus) will be giving evidence at the same time today because the judge feared that they could share information amongst each other regarding the line of questioning.