Prosecutor seeks three-year sentence for Puigdemont's chief of staff

Josep Lluís Alay one step away from appearing in court, as judge demands €4,732 bail over trip to New Caledonia

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Josep Lluís Alay, in the centre, arriving at the Audiencia Nacional in an archive image

BarcelonaThe historian Josep Lluís Alay, former president Carles Puigdemont's chief of staff, will have to appear in court in Barcelona. The Prosecutor's Office accuses him of having used public money to pay for a "personal" trip in 2018, as an observer in a referendum in New Caledonia and is seeking a three-year prison sentence and a seventeen-year bar from public office.

The judge investigating the case, the head of the 28th examining court of Barcelona, has sent the case to trial after imposing a €4,732.56 bail. He will stand accused of embezzlement of public money and misfeasance.

The bail corresponds to the money the prosecution believes Alay to have taken from the public coffers to finance hi trip. According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, it was the Department of the Presidency which underwrote the trip and wrote it down as part of the president's office's expenses. Anti-corruption prosecutor Teresa Duerto accuses Alay of "abusing" his status as chief of staff using public money to go to New Caledonia to promote the pro-independence project of one of the country's political parties, which had invited him

According to the prosecutor, the trip responded to personal interests and "there was no reason to justify its public budget allocation". Initially, the Prosecutor's Office also filed a complaint against the current secretary of the Health Department, Meritxell Masó, whom it blamed for authorising the trip's expenses while she was secretary of the Presidency. However, the judge shelved this part of the investigation.

This is not the only legal case against Alay. The Barcelona's Court of Instruction no. 1 is investigating charges as part of the Volhov case for allegedly having diverted public money to finance the Independence bid. The Audiencia Nacional also has him under investigation in the case against the Tsunami Democràtic. On the other hand, the same court has dismissed the investigation into his accompanying Puigdemont when he was arrested in Germany.