Misc 24/08/2016

Andorra to probe whether Spain blackmailed bank to undermine Catalan indy process

BPA's main shareholder reported being pressured into leaking data on Mas, Junqueras, and Pujol

Núria Orriols
2 min
L’expresident de la Generalitat Artur Mas i l’actual vicepresident del Govern, Oriol Junqueras.

BarcelonaThe Andorran justice system will investigate the alleged coercion of directors of Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) by Spain to force them to leak information that could undermine the independence process in Catalonia. This was decided by judge Canòlich Mingorance after wrapping up the investigation phase of the BPA case over supposed illegal acts by several bank executives.

Although BPA's connection with political scandals has nothing to do with the investigation --the bank is charged with leaking information on the Pujol family--, in his court statement BPA's majority shareholder Higini Cierco denounced pressure, threats, and blackmail by Spanish authorities aimed at persuading the bank to provide information on Jordi Pujol, and also at finding details that could smear former Catalan president Artur Mas, Oriol Junqueras —current vice-president— and family members.

Cierco named Celestino Barroso, attaché to the Spanish embassy in Andorra, and Marcelino Martín Blas, former head of Internal Affairs, as authors of the alleged pressure. As a result, the judge has decided to open two separate parts of the BPA case, one to investigate if there had been threats, and the other into the alleged crime of disclosure of professional secrets by Joan Pau Miquel, CEO of the bank. Cierco stated that the BPA directors provided the Spanish police with details of Pujol's assets, as there were no data on any other accounts, either for Mas or Junqueras.

Therefore, judge Mingorance will process the cases of alleged threats and coercion through the ordinary justice system, and will also send information about Cierco's statement to the judge who will, from this point forward, probe the alleged revelation of bank secrets in connection with the Pujol case.

Further legal action by the Pujol family

This second case was initiated following the complaint filed by the family of former Catalan president Jordi Pujol when Spanish newspaper El Mundo published information on his Andorra accounts. The text up to now has not indicated any specific defendants, but as a result of the new revelations, the Pujol family's counsel will expand the lawsuit. Their lawyer in Andorra, Jean Michel Rascagneres, told ARA yesterday that they would ask for BPA's CEO to be indicted because —according to Cierco— he was the one who disclosed Pujol's assets to the Spanish authorities —this information is to be confirmed by the court, added the lawyer. They will also ask for two others to be named-- Martín Blas, former police Chief Inspector, and Celestino Barroso, attaché for Spain’s Interior Ministry at the embassy in Andorra. The latter, noted Rascagneres, might be protected by diplomatic immunity. All three will be accused of "instigating" a crime of disclosure of professional secrets. At the same time, the Pujol family will lodge their own accusation in the separate case of coercion and threats.

Martín Blas is one of the former Spanish police superintendents implicated in Operation Catalonia, according to court statements by superintendent José Manuel Villarejo in Madrid. The top police official admitted that there had been a secret operation engineered to uncover instances of corruption that might implicate Catalan pro-independence politicians, using the Internal Affairs and Planning & Strategy divisions.

Catalan government welcomes court decision

Government sources yesterday welcomed the news of the probe into the “smear campaign" by the Spanish government against the independence movement, but complained that it had to be the Andorran justice system and "not the Spanish" that opened the investigation into Spain's "dirty war" against Catalan independence.