Speaker Borràs facing 6 years in prison and 21-year ban from office
Prosecutors accuse Laura Borràs of administrative misfeasance and forgery
BarcelonaSix years in prison, a 21-years ban from office and a €144,000 fine: this is the sentence the Public Prosecutor's Office is seeking for Catalan Speaker Laura Borràs, for allegedly splitting contracts to avoid scrutiny when she was director of the Institution of Catalan Letters. She stands accused of administrative misfeasance and forgery with the aggravating factor of her public position. However, charges of embezzlement and administrative fraud have been dropped despite the fact that the Catalan High Court had at first accepted to hear the accusation's case relating to these crimes. In view of this, the Speaker's party, Together for Catalonia (JxCat), has again closed ranks with its president: "So much disproportion proves it is a case of political persecution. We give all our support and stand by your side," said the party's secretary general, Jordi Turull. On the other hand, JxCat's coalition partner in the Catalan government, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), reiterated that Borràs should "consider" taking a step aside.
"Defendants Laura Borràs and Isaías Herrero – a friend of the current Speaker who was in charge of the website's maintenance tasks – acted by mutual agreement and agreed that those tasks would be paid done through administrative contracting, unduly splitting them into several minor contracts," concludes the Prosecutor's Office's brief. According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, by awarding these contracts to Herrero, Borràs violated the principles of "transparency and public concurrence", despite both she and Herrero being "perfectly aware that in their way of acting they openly broke regulations on administrative contracting". In total, the amount Herrero was paid amounts to €277,438.17.
The Prosecutor's indictment also states that Borràs and Herrero "faked" the contracting process to "hide" the awards. In each of the jobs to be done, three budgets appeared in the name of different suppliers to give some "appearance" of normality. "Two suppliers were not real offers but budgets falsely elaborated by the accused [...] to cover up the fact that the job would be awarded to Herrero and mask the illegal splitting of contracts.
Abuse of power
In consequence, the Prosecutor's Office claims that Borràs "abused her powers as director of the ILC" and "approved the contracting, spending and awarding of 18 minor contracts" herself. For Herrero, the Prosecutor's Office is seeking the same sentence as for Borràs, accusing him of the same crimes: 6 years in prison and a 21-year ban from office for misfeasance and forgery. On the other hand, they want Herrero to pay €72,000 in fines, half as much as the Speaker, because Borràs has the aggravating circumstance of being a public official.
A third person is involved in the case. Businessman Andreu Pujol, for whom the prosecution is seeking a 10-year ban from office and 3 years in prison for the same crimes, is considered by the Public Prosecutor's Office to be a "necessary collaborator". He "was aware" of the splitting of contracts between Borràs and Herrero, and "in agreement with them he prepared budgets and invoices in his name as a freelancer or through the company APMGC&CE SL". These budgets were sometimes unrealistic offers so that Herrero's were chosen; other times, they were invoices which he would then pass on to Herrero.
According to the prosecutor's brief, Borràs awarded 18 minor contracts fraudulently. It considers these should have been grouped into only six contracts: one for the development of the ILC website; a second for the Any Vinyoli website; a third one for the virtual platform Què llegeixes?; a fourth on the Ramon Rull literary year; a fifth on the website dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the publication of the work Pedra de tartera; and a sixth for the maintenance of the Bertrana year website.
Of the 18 minor contracts – most of them around €21,000 – some were awarded directly in the name of Isaías Herrero, but the others were awarded to names as varied as Xarxa Integral de Professionals i Usuàries; Freelance Societat Cooperativa Madrilenya; APMGC&CE; Andreu Pujol Martín and SmartCooper. Whatever the name, the prosecution argues that it was always Herrero behind it. What the prosecutor does concede is that the prices of the contracts were never bloated and therefore what ILC paid for the work was an adequate cost. In the end, the Prosecutor's Office also dismissed the case against a fourth defendant, whose identity has not been revealed: it argues that it has not found "sufficiently solid incriminating evidence".