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Chief justice denounced for misusing public funds on trips

Fellow judiciary member files complaint with attorney general Justice could be forced off judiciary panel

Carlos Dívar(l) and Jose Manuel Gómez Benítez.
Carlos Dívar(l) and Jose Manuel Gómez Benítez.EFE

A top judiciary official filed a complaint Tuesday against Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Dívar, alleging that he misused public funds on a series of private weekend trips to the southern city of Marbella.

José Manuel Gómez Benítez, a member of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) legal watchdog, filed the complaint with Attorney General Eduardo Torres-Dulce, alleging that Dívar, who is also head of the CGPJ, submitted receipts for 5,658 euros for at least six trips he took between September 2010 and November 2011 to a luxurious hotel in Puerto Banús. Gómez Benítez stressed that "there is no record in the file of any official activity" that took place during those weekends.

The CGPJ member also told Torres-Dulce that the cost of Dívar's bodyguards during these trips, including their lodging and meals, cost the judiciary 26,741 euros. The complaint has only focused on six trips but Gómez Benítez has asked for more information concerning other weekends.

When contacted by EL PAÍS, Dívar was surprised by the complaint. "I never charged private expenses to the council. I paid for these from my own pocket."

If the attorney general finds probable cause he will have to ask a Supreme Court panel to open an investigation into the matter.

All of the trips were for long weekends that began on Thursday and concluded on Tuesday. The complaint also points out that while Dívar traveled by business class on the AVE high-speed train, three official vehicles were dispatched to Marbella beforehand so that he could make use of them while there.

When asked by EL PAÍS why he was filing the complaint now, Gómez Benítez said: "I want the attorney general to know about this because it is my legal obligation. I don't want anyone to think that I am trying to cover up this type of conduct when it becomes known that I had knowledge about this."

Experts say that this case could force Dívar to resign as head of the CGPJ voluntarily, or by a three-fifths vote of all its members. The Penal Code states that if found guilty Dívar could, among other things, be suspended from the bench.

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