Spanish Courts Probing Film Subsidy Fraud Allegations

Madrid - H 2015
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Spain's Film Institute suspects producers and exhibitors have inflated box-office figures to qualify for subsidies.

Four Madrid courts are investigating film subsidy fraud allegations, Spanish daily El Pais reported Monday.

The allegations are stemming from supposedly inflated box-office figures provided by producers and exhibitors to allow homegrown films to access state subsidies from Spain's Culture Ministry.

The El Pais story is based on a report the newspaper accessed from the Culture Ministry’s Film Institute, the ICAA, which questioned the veracity of the figures provided by exhibitors in 2012 for 38 of the 74 films that requested subsidies. The alleged amount of money fraudulently obtained has not yet been calculated, according to the daily, which said prosecutors suspect the fraud has been going on for years.

A source confirmed the existence of the report and the investigation, but no further details.

Spanish film subsidies are awarded based on a combination of criteria, including investment, a minimum of 60,000 tickets sold and box-office receipts. The probe involves several courts because they each cover different zones and competences.

The ICAA report, which has been presented before the Madrid prosecutor leading the probe, called the fraud "falsifying by inflating the revenues" and said that the exhibitors were not alone in the fraud. "There is evidence that there are developed practices that are agreed upon [between the producers and the distributors]," El Pais quoted from the report.

According to the report, the ICAA suspected inflation of figures and took the surprise measure in 2012 of sending inspectors to specific theaters to confirm attendance. The observers reportedly contrasted the figure of 100 moviegoers in one screening with only 1 person present in the theater.

The ICAA report cites "anomalies" in the reporting of figures on 38 films, including Enrique Cerezo’s La Montana Rusa, screened in the Abacocine-Cinebox chain.