The case that once again puts independence in the spotlight

The Court of Auditors threatens a millionaire bail against 41 charges of the Generalitat

3 min
One of the acts under the magnifying glass of the court is the one that starred Junqueras, Puigdemont and Romeva on January 24, 2017 to the European Parliament in defense of the referendum.

BarcelonaWhile a stage of dialogue between the Generalitat and the Spanish government of uncertain prognosis opens, the repression against the independence movement does not stop. The next case that is about to break out is one of the Court of Auditors is investigating the external action of the Generalitat between 2011 and 2017. The inclusion of the former Minister Andreu Mas-Colell among the 41 investigated has aroused a wave of solidarity in the last week and has helped to popularize the case. The first important date of this cause will be the 29th and 30th June. The lawyers of all the defendants will parade through the Court of Auditors to find out exactly what their clients are accused of and they will know the most important thing: the bail they will have to pay, which is expected to be in the millions. Those being investigated, from the ex Presidents Mas and Puigdemont to ex Ministers such as Junqueras and Romeva, delegates abroad and various senior officials, face a possible seizure of assets if they cannot make the payment.

It all starts in December 2017. At the proposal of PP, the Senate commissions the Court of Auditors to investigate the foreign action of the Generalitat since 2011 and analyze all the expenses using a magnifying glass. The court gets to work and in April 2019 it finishes a 722-page report in which it explains that it has analyzed 416 million euros of spending by the Generalitat in this area and sees irregularities. The worst fears of those affected arrive the last Sant Jordi: they are notified that they are being investigated and are summoned for the month of June.

The public report does not explicitly detail what is considered to have been embezzled, but it gives clues. The court censures, for example, that on trips abroad, even for economic purposes, public statements are made in defence of the Catalan independence bid. One of the extracts reads: "The President [Mas] inaugurated [in June 2014] the new plasma fractionation plant of a company [Grifols] in Clayton and in statements to journalists said that "If we are denied the right to vote there will be conflict, civilized conflict, in which we will all have to express ourselves with respect and consideration". The Court concludes that these words call into question the 75,000 euros that it cost the President and the entire Catalan delegation. "This is an outrage, it is a direct attack on freedom of expression", criticizes one of those affected.

An uncertain bail

But the most urgent problem now is another: the bail that they will have to pay up front and that they will know between the 29th and the 30th. Rafael Entrena, who is an expert lawyer in accounting responsibility before the court, warns: "I'm tired of saying it, it is impossible to anticipate a figure". Among all the sources consulted by ARA, the forecasts range from 4 million to 20 or 25. It is not an irrelevant data, since the investigated face a seizure if they cannot pay and the Caixa de Solidaritat, as published by ARA a few weeks ago, has already paid 14 million euros and does not have unlimited solvency. The complaint of all of them is that a bail is imposed on them -liquidation in legal terms- when they have not even begun to be judged yet. "These people can have their assets seized in millions of dollars and not be sentenced for another four or five years", warns Entrena. In addition, if they are convicted, the appeal to the Supreme Court may still take a few more years.

The horizon is very uncertain, but there is some reason for hope. For example, in a rather unprecedented case, one of the court's counselors, Maria Dolores Genaro, filed a dissenting opinion against the 700-page report because she considers it biased and exaggerated. "It does not seem that there is an overreach of the external action exercised by the Generalitat", she concluded. This has no immediate practical effect, but it could be a bullet to keep in the chamber for future appeals. In addition, one of the former Ministers being investigated, Francesc Homs, is studying to file a complaint for prevarication against the investigating official who has prepared the document.