The failed innovation businesses around the former Madrid president Esperanza Aguirre will cost the taxpayer at least 20 million euros. It is the amount that the opaque public-private entity Madrid Network, created in Aguirre’s first legislature, already considers lost after the companies it financed with soft loans from the Ministry of Science have stopped paying. Most of the businesses selected to benefit from this financing in 2011 failed, went into liquidation and the guarantors and guarantees they presented have turned out not to exist. They are all insolvent. This figure is very conservative, since it only considers what they owed in the last quarter of 2018, according to documentation that EL PAÍS has had access to. Currently the irrecoverable amount may be higher.
The regional government tries to hide the fiasco of Madrid Network, which paid a high salary to Isabel Díaz Ayuso between 2008 and 2011, when she worked for the Popular Party of Madrid. The now Madrid president received 4,219 euros a month from this entity that also employed other young promises of the PP before they made the leap to public office, as this newspaper revealed in 2019. Until then, the different resumes of the president obviated what he had done in those years. Díaz Ayuso received money from the Madrid Network, supposedly for working in the press department – he is a journalist by training – until the month before he entered the Madrid Assembly as a deputy in June 2011. Aguirre also placed Santiago Abascal, today the leader of Vox and then affiliated with the PP, in two of the many foundations that depended on the regional government. Pablo Casado has attacked the leader of Vox on more than one occasion, reminding him that he collected from “foundations, beach bars and mamandurrias from the occasional regional government.”
Now the regional government refuses to report on Madrid Network, claiming that “it is a private entity with its own legal personality.” But until a few years ago, the governments of Aguirre and Cristina Cifuentes gave him direct grants, including the time when Ayuso was paid by the entity. In addition to the subsidies, the entity manages 80 million of public money that were entrusted to it by the Community itself in 2011, of which a part has remained for management. The regional government does not want to give explanations about the current status of this credit and only reveals that at the beginning of 2019 26 companies had stopped paying the loan.
Madrid Network is the most opaque of the many foundations, public companies and entities that flourished during Aguirre’s two legislatures. Formally, it is a private law entity, which exempts it from presenting accounts in the Mercantile Registry and from submitting to the scrutiny of the public auditors and the Madrid Assembly. Despite not being audited, Aguirre decided to give him the management of 80 million in advantageous loans (with an interest of 1.2% and a five-year grace period) that the Ministry of Science allocated to the promotion of innovative companies in Madrid and that he chose who was going to give it to him. Among the beneficiaries, several businessmen related to the PP and former high-ranking officials of the party sneaked in, such as the controversial former Minister of Health Manuel Lamela and Ildefonso de Miguel, former manager of Canal de Isabel II who ended up being charged in the Lezo case together with Ignacio González.
The 4,219 euros per month for Díaz Ayuso at the Esperanza Aguirre beach bar
Aguirre’s bad loans go bankrupt
The production company Secuoya, whose adviser was Miguel Ángel Rodríguez – Secretary of State for Communication with José María Aznar and today Ayuso’s Chief of Staff – also received a loan of 800,000 euros to build the Ciudad de la Tele, a pharaonic production project audiovisual. The project was not carried out and the company returned it “amicably” in 2015, because it was not being “executed correctly”, according to the financial report of the loans.
The audit: 67 million without justification
The successive ministries of the PP and the PSOE in charge of auditing the fate of those 80 million have evidence since 2017 that the management of the loans was a disaster and that a good part of that money will probably never be recovered. A report, accessed by EL PAÍS, shows that in 2017 the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness headed by Luis de Guindos commissioned an audit from the public company Ingeniería de Sistemas para la Defensa de España (Isdefe). The conclusion was devastating: 67 of the 80 million were without justification, most of the financed projects did not conform “to the lines of activity included in the agreement”, there was no concurrence nor had “the development and operation of the developed centers been accredited under the same protection ”.
Lamela’s project, for example, which consisted of creating a company that would attract private health tourism to Madrid, had nothing to do with innovation. It also used a non-profit association to not provide guarantees in the event of non-payment. He has not returned the half million euros he received.
The Guindos ministry kept Isdefe’s report in a drawer. That of Pedro Duque (PSOE) has not taken measures either. Both have also denied that there was an audit of the Madrid Network loans when this newspaper asked them under the Transparency Law. The last time, last December, Science did not even respond to the request about the status of the analysis of the 80 million euros in preferential loans, which is mandatory as it is a part of the General State Budgets. Now a spokesman for the Ministry of Science acknowledges the existence of the 2017 report and assures that the “definitive” audit will be undertaken shortly.
Isdefe’s analysis affirms in its conclusions that the Madrid Government “has not provided documentary information” that justifies that the five calls (from 2010 to 2014) to which the projects were submitted have been published and resolved, only that it published them in your website. In addition, he reproaches him for only presenting as economic-administrative information “funds movement orders”, which are also not well referenced and in some cases poorly sealed. To demonstrate this, it includes a table of annexes. Businessmen consulted by this newspaper reported that the calls were not publicized. The project selection process was attended by invitation or by being an associate of the Madrid Network.
Without the agreed press conferences
Although the companies that received the loan had to hold a press conference a year making the ministry’s collaboration visible, Isdefe has no record of that taking place. Ayuso worked in the communication department that supposedly should have helped organize these events and promote centers that in many cases have turned out to be ghosts. Actually, the then journalist dedicated part of her time to be in charge of communication online of the PP of the capital and to keep Aguirre’s Twitter account. At that time he also drove the profile of the ex-president’s dog, Freckles, creado for the election campaign of 2011.
Although at least 26 companies are not paying their credit to Madrid Network, the Community is returning the credit to the State, says a spokesman for the Ministry of Science, which has so far recovered 42 million euros. The entity began the mandate of Ayuso under the umbrella of the Ministry of Science, in the hands of Citizens, but de facto is in the hands of the liberal Javier Fernández-Lasquetty, head of Health with Aguirre. “As a private entity, it is related to the innovation department in relation to the material scope of innovation actions and to the competent department in matters of financial policy in relation to the repayment of the loan granted”, argue from the Treasury.
The opposition, meanwhile, believes that transparency in management has worsened since Ciudadanos entered the government in 2019 with Ayuso. There is an “informative bolt”, they believe, greater than during the terms of Cristina Cifuentes or Ángel Garrido. More Madrid, for example, maintains that it has been waiting for months for a report from the venture capital fund Inicap, of which the Community is the main shareholder, and that it is related to Madrid Network, the entity unable to justify 67 of the 80 million euros it received from the public purse.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.