Catalan High Court leaves Laura Borràs one step away from trial for "abusing" her position at ILC
Judge sees evidence of misfeasance and embezzlement in Speaker's actions
BarcelonaNine months later, Catalonia's High Court has completed its investigation of Speaker Laura Borràs's actions as the head of the Institution of Catalan Letters (ILC). The magistrate who was in charge of the case has concluded that there are indications that Borràs "abused" her position at the head of the institution, allegedly awarding contracts to a friend irregularly, whom she had known for years and with whom she had worked. The decision means that Borràs and all other suspects under investigation are one step away from standing trial for the crimes of misfeasance, embezzlement of public money, administrative fraud and forgery. In fact, the judge, Jordi Seguí, has given the Prosecutor's Office ten days to say whether it wants to press charfes against Borràs and the rest of the defendants. The defenses also have ten days to present allegations. The Speaker has always denied any wrongdoing.
According to the magistrate, Borràs took advantage of her position as director of the ILC to "dictate unjust resolutions" and "favour" Isaías Herrero in the awarding of eighteen minor contracts to programme and maintain the institution's website, a website dedicated to the Vinyoli Year, the virtual platform Què Llegeixes and the website of the Ramon Llull Literary Year, despite being "fully aware" that "it was in contradiction" with public procurement rules and with its obligation to "defend general interests". Despite this, the judge claims that Borràs influenced these projects to be awarded in an "arbitrary" way to her friend, who ended up receiving over €300,000 from the institution for work that may not have been carried out. Her friend invoiced the institution directly and on behalf of companies of which he was a partner.
"We could get you to present an offer for all four and only win one"
The judge relies mainly on the email correspondence between the now Speaker and the businessman, whom Borràs had known for years and with whom he had collaborated on the master's degree that Borràs directed at the University of Barcelona. The magistrate concludes that these emails prove that the two agreed to "defraud" money from the ILC. For example, the judge cites one of the messages in which the investigators suspect that Borràs proposes the formula to disguise the alleged fixed tenders: "I thought that we could do is you present an offer for all four and only win one, the cheapest in the lot, the cooperative ditto, APM management ditto and the other ditto. The rest could be done with the company and the cooperative in Madrid", Borràs writes.
In another email, the businessman confesses to Borràs that he finds it "strange and complicated to have to do this fiddle", in reference to the alleged manipulation of invoices: "I know that it is the way it is done, but put yourself in my place, having to get several people to make up 18k invoices for me!", the businessman says, who also asks Borràs if she knows a "more stylish way to do it". She answers in another email that "the thing to do is to split" the invoices.
fIn another 2017 email, the businessman expresses his concern to one of his workers (who is also under investigation) that after the Generalitat's self-rule was suspended under Article 155, there might be "an economic commission that begins to look at" all the ILC's expenses: "Because I am knee deep, man, of course, because I with Borràs, the boss, I bill her through the cooperative, I bill a few In addition, in a 2017 email, the businessman expresses his concern to one of his workers (who is also under investigation) that after the Generalitat's self-rule was suspended under Article 155, there might be "an economic commission that begins to look at" all the ILC's expenses: "Because I am knee deep, man, of course, because I with Borràs, the boss, I bill her through the cooperative, I bill a few fiddles over there [...]".
The other indication that leads the judge to believe there may have been a crime are the invoices. The investigators suspect that they were false and that the businessman "made them up" using data from third parties who during the investigation "denied their participation" in the works. In fact, Borràs' friend wrote an email to one of his workers –also under investigation– urging him to prepare some of the invoices and warning him to "ignore" the concepts and amounts, because they were "totally made up". Most of the budgets were stored in a folder on the businessman's computer named "Budgets LAURA".
According to the magistrate, Borràs intervened directly in the awarding of the eighteen contracts "proposing the contracting, agreeing the awarding, approving expenses, certifying the execution of the service, confirming the invoice and finally authorising the payment", except in one of the cases, which was not paid, "because no invoice was presented". Six of the wprks under suspicion – worth €112,503.50 – were awarded directly to Borràs's friend, while the other twelve went to companies in which the man was a partner. In total, the contracts total €330,442.65, and the institution paid €309,176.90.
The judge also claims that most of the income received by the investigated businessman between 2013 and 2017 came from work billed to the ILC. In addition to Borràs and Herrero, an ILC worker who allegedly participated in the awards and a worker under investigation for lending his tax data to the businessman so that he could use them when billing the works are also likely to stand trial.