Court of Auditors U-turns and accepts ICF bail bond

By two votes to one, the new chamber of justice amends the investigating delegate's initial rejection

2 min
Image of the façade of the Court of Auditors.

MadridFirst plot twist in the Court of Auditors case after the body renewed its councillors. This Monday the courtroom has decided to accept the bond offered by the Institut Català de Finances to pay the €5.4m bail former Generalitat Foreign Office workers are facing, El País explained and ARA has confirmed. Initially, the delegate rejected this mechanism created by the Generalitat arguing that it could not cover the conducts of the thirty officials under investigation. The investigating delegate considered that the Generalitat's decree was legal, but that it did not cover those cases in which those involved had acted with "malice, guilt or gross negligence".

The trial chamber that has studied the appeal presented by the defences, however, and has adopted a different criterion. The full decision will be made public in the next few days. However, the decision was not unanimous in the courtroom. The president of the section, Rebeca Laliga, proposed by the PP, voted against the decision. On the other hand, the councillors promoted by the Socialists, Rosario García Álvarez and Diego Íñiguez – former chief of staff of Minister of Defense Margarita Robles – have tipped the balance in favour of upholding the appeals of the defences.

The case had reached a stalemate as a result of the rejection of the ICF bonds and other alternative formulae. At the end of September, the State Attorney's Office responded to the consultation that Esperanza García had made two months earlier on the legality of this mechanism. The Spanish government's legal services declined to take a position because they had been a party during the investigation phase. The investigating delegate decided to reject the ICF bond and she did not formally accept other ways to make the payments. Instead, she left it in the hands of the trial section's councillors, who have now resolved in favour of the defences.

Breath of fresh air until sentencing

The court's decision is a relief for former president of the Generalitat Artur Mas and the former Catalan ministers Joana Ortega, Irene Rigau and Francesc Homs, who would have had to use their properties as bail. In fact, only last week the Court of Auditors lifted the seizure on four properties that had already served as collateral in the 2014 Referendum case. The Caixa de Solidaritat paid the outstanding amount.

ERC and JxCat had also mobilised economic resources to face the bail and now they will be able to keep them while the oral trial is held. The ICF's guarantees are used to preventively cover the accounting responsibility of those affected. However, if there is a conviction, then those eventually convicted will have to respond with private funds. To reach this point there are still steps to be taken. The Court still has to give the Prosecutor's Office time to file a lawsuit and it will then be necessary to see if it maintains the accusation against all thirty officials or narrows it down. Societat Civil Catalana has already done so: despite suing for €5.4m over the Generalitat's foreign action between 2011 and 2017, it is only targeting eight former high-ranking officials. It thus covers its back against the possibility of acquittals and having to pay high trial costs.