CORRUPTION CLAIM

Interior Ministry denies existence of police report into alleged fraud by Catalan leader

Artur Mas claims phantom document is part of “dirty war” ahead of elections Government’s official response is that El Mundo story is based on a mixture of case files

Madrid -
Catalan premier and CiU leader Artur Mas on the campaign trail.
Catalan premier and CiU leader Artur Mas on the campaign trail.DAVID BESORA (EFE)

Mystery continues to surround the origin of a draft police report that suggests senior members of the CiU Catalan nationalist coalition — including current regional premier Artur Mas, Mas’ father, and the center-right bloc’s founder Jordi Pujol, who governed the region for 23 years — have been involved in fraudulent activities. The daily El Mundo has been picking over the purported document since last Friday.

The report, which is not being used as part of any investigation, according to the Interior Ministry, was supposedly drawn up by the Fiscal and Economic Crime Unit (UDEF). Its contents supposedly contain allegations that Mas and Pujol profited from illicit commissions granted through the Palau de la Música concert hall in Barcelona. The ministry has suggested that it may have been an extracurricular undertaking leaked to the media. Mas has accused the government of waging a “dirty war” against him ahead of regional elections in Catalonia on November 25.

According to the government, the document does not officially exist. The Interior Ministry, however, while admitting that the report is “irregular,” says that the majority of the claims it makes come from “scattered material” accumulated during the 2009 Palau Case investigation into alleged corruption at the concert hall. A Treasury investigation into the director of the Fundació Palau de la Música-Orfeó Català, Fèlix Millet, and his right-hand man Jordi Muntull, alleges that 24 million euros were skimmed from money granted to the Palau to stage performances and maintain its choir. A separate inquiry was opened when evidence emerged that some of this money was diverted to the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) political grouping — part of the CiU coalition on which Pujol sits as president and Mas as general secretary — through the bloc’s Ramon Trias Fargas Foundation.

Police and Treasury reports accuse the construction company Ferrovial of paying commissions for public works contracts to the government of Pujol. The company is alleged to have awarded vast sums of money to the Palau under the guise of patronage, money that in reality funded illicit commissions for contracts to build Barcelona’s Cuidad de la Justicia courthouses and Line 9 of the city’s Metro. Millet acted as intermediary for the payments, which represented four percent of the total; 2.5 percent went to the CDC and 1.5 percent to Millet, Montull and their associates.

The document also accuses the police of hiding evidence against Mas and Jordi Pujol

The material supposedly contained in the phantom document includes judicial reports on the case written between 2001 and 2012, but these make no mention of Mas, his father or Pujol. The new information, according to the ministry, derives from other paperwork connected to the investigation: anonymous police minutes and statements by informers.

The last official UDEF report into illicit financing of the CDC through the Palau was filed in May but does not directly accuse “political leaders or their direct family members.” The phantom document, though, states that the cut from Millet’s machinations also included payments to “the personal accounts of the leaders” of the party; Mas, Pujol and the serving interior chief Felipe Puig. According to El Mundo, the document also accuses the Mossos d’Esquadra police force of hiding the existence of an anonymous letter that includes “very sensitive data and documents related to the Pujol family and Artur Mas.” This document apparently contains information about commissions allegedly paid to Mas’ father in Liechtenstein, part of which was later diverted to Mas. The accounts contained two million euros and Mas senior has also confessed to holding a Swiss account with a similar figure. The police say that “no operation exists that can justify such an amount of money.”

The judge investigating the case has rejected the validity of the phantom document and last Friday said that he “did not know of its existence.” He has not ordered any further investigation into alleged illegal financing of CDC and reminded the UDEF that “it cannot bring any investigation to a head without the mandate of a judge.”

Mas and Pujol have launched legal action against El Mundo for publishing the information.

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