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CORRUPTION

Audit Office voted to shelve report on mayor's financial irregularities

Catalan multi-party committee opted to turn blind eye on siphoning of 350,000 euros of public money

The Public Audit Office of Catalonia voted in 2006 not to send a blistering report to the regional parliament about Xavier Crespo, the former mayor of Lloret de Mar (Girona) and now a deputy and chairman of the health committee, which concluded that he and his wife illegally received public money from a medical corporation that managed two hospitals.

The audit shows that payments of more than 350,000 euros were handed out to the Crespos and two companies, one of which was owned by the couple. The money came from the Selva and Maresme Medical Corporation (CMSM). But despite the findings, the Catalonia Public Audit Office decided to shelve the report. In a six-to-one vote, two members of the Catalan CiU nationalist bloc, two from the regional Socialist Party (PSC), one from the Popular Party (PP) and another from the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) all voted in favor of Crespo, who is a member of the CiU.

The only board member who voted to turn over the investigation to parliament was Agustí Colom of the leftist green ICV.

Six years later, the ICV is demanding that the audit be made public.

The only member who voted to turn over the probe to parliament was from the leftist green ICV

The investigation began in 2005 when the Public Audit Office decided to look into the finances at CMSM, which was set up to treat foreign tourists in need of emergency medical attention. Among the discoveries auditors made was that CMSM couldn't justify the 350,000-euro payments, some of which went to Crespo and his wife.

"It was discovered that the CMSM paid 15,377 euros of what appear to be personal expenses of Mr Xavier Crespo and Mrs Guadalupe Oliva," Colom said at the time.

During the inquiry, Crespo was still serving as mayor and had a seat on the CMSM's board. Along with his wife, he was co-owner of Llomecen, a firm created in 2004 that performed managerial duties at some hospitals, according to sources.

The Public Audit Office also looked at another company, Croal Advisors in Pineda de Mar, which was run at the time by Carme Aragonés.

The entire public auditors' board debated the issue for weeks one year after the inquiry was opened.

On Monday, Crespo pointed out that both the Public Audit Office of Catalonia and also the Court of Auditors had ruled in his favor, adding that he considered the entire issue "closed."

But after a local magazine called Cafèambillet published an investigative piece on the Crespo inquiry, the ICV has asked the speaker of the regional parliament, Núria de Gispert, to order the Public Audit Office to dig out the report. "We are demanding that it be made public," said ICV deputy Joan Boada on Monday.

CMSM was dissolved in 2008.

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