An idea of what the opera house might have looked like. | Archive

Ex-president of the Balearics, Jaume Matas, is back in court yet again. Today sees the start of the trial into the so-called "caso Ópera" for which the prosecution is seeking a fifteen-month jail term for the trafficking of influence.

The prosecution claims that Matas took a unilateral decision to hand a contract to the architect Santiago Calatrava to come up with the project for an opera house: the idea was for something along the lines of the Sydney Opera House. This was given just before the 2007 election, which Matas lost and was followed by the various corruption cases that are still working their way through the judicial system.

The project, it is alleged, was one to favour Matas's interests as a candidate for the election (i.e. to make him look good, or so he might have believed). But it was a project without any economic feasibility and which was planned for land that couldn't be used because it belonged to the Spanish state, i.e. the ports authority.

In February 2007, Matas reached a verbal agreement with Calatrava for a 1.2 million euros contract to present a draft project, a video and two models of a building for opera and the performing arts. As things turned out, the presentation of this project was prevented by the electoral commission because it would have been right before the election.

In principle, Matas has already accepted his guilt in the matter but not a prison sentence.