CATALAN ELECTIONS

No report linking Mas to illegal payoffs exists, says police chief

Catalan leader blames PM for leaking “phantom” document Rajoy denies any connection with alleged report

The head of the police’s UDEF financial crimes squad on Thursday denied that his investigators had worked up a report for a judge that implicates Catalan premier Artur Mas or anyone in his government with instances of illegal payoffs from private companies that did business with the administration.

The revelation made by UDEF chief Manuel Vázquez, and issued through a statement by a Catalan provincial court, appears to counter allegations published in a national newspaper that Mas and members of Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) deposited illegal commissions from such deals in offshore bank accounts.

With two days to go before Sunday’s Catalan elections, the controversy surrounding allegations that Mas, the CiU nationalist candidate, has a secret Swiss bank account continued to reach new heights on Thursday. The Popular Party (PP) publicly challenged the regional premier to sign a sworn statement to the effect that he has no money stashed away in any offshore tax havens.

As calls for the Catalan regional premier Mas and his political godfather, Jordi Pujol, to come clean about their personal finances grew louder, opposition lawmakers in Congress demanded that two top government officials come forward to confirm whether there is an ongoing criminal investigation into the two.

He should sign an affidavit that he will step down if any account in his name is found"

Prosecutors in Catalonia, meanwhile, have announced that they have opened a libel inquiry into El Mundo, the newspaper that first reported the allegations based on a purported draft investigative report by UDEF that supposedly mentions accounts held by Pujol and his wife Marta Ferrusola, as well as Mas’ late father, Artur Mas Banet, in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

“The prime minister of Spain is not far removed from all that is happening; they are all implicated in an attempt to bend the will of the Catalan people. This is the PP’s strategy,” Mas said on Thursday, while reiterating that he and his wife only have bank accounts in Catalonia.

Speaking from Brussels, Rajoy said it was “absolutely false” that he had anything to do with the report.

Mas’ Catalan nationalist CiU bloc, with the support of the Socialist Party, have demanded that the interior and finance ministers, Jorge Fernández Díaz and Cristóbal Montoro, appear in Congress by Friday to clarify whether or not there is an ongoing investigation. But the PP blocked that petition. The CiU charged that statements made by Montoro on Wednesday — addressing the controversy by saying “the one who should appear in Congress is the one who has Swiss accounts” — were “harmful ones” that could influence the elections.

The PP is implicated in an attempt to bend the will of the Catalan people"

“For the minister to make these insinuations three days before the elections is serious,” said CiU deputy Jordi Jané referring to the fact that the statements were published in national newspapers on Thursday.

While the PP rejected the opposition's calls for transparency on the supposed police report, top officials from that party challenged Mas to sign a sworn statement denying that he has had any such accounts.

“He should go before a notary and sign an affidavit that he will step down if any Swiss bank account in his name is found,” said Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, the PP candidate for regional premier.

According to the report that El Mundo refers to, the 82-year-old Pujol and his wife hold accounts that are filled with money obtained from illegal commissions from public contracts that were awarded when he served as regional premier from 1980-2003. Mas’ father also received money from these commissions, the report allegedly states. Pujol was the leader of the CDC, one of the two parties that form the CiU bloc. Some of the commissions, according to the report, came from the Fundació Orfeó Català-Palau de la Música and its director Fèlix Millet, who is the target of an investigation into alleged payoffs made to the CDC.

The premier’s father, Mas Banet, who died in March, cleared up his tax situation with the Treasury after inspectors in 2008 found that he had two million euros in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Also on Thursday, Antonio Tejero, the notorious former Civil Guard colonel who led the February 23, 1981 coup attempt, announced that he filed a criminal complaint against Mas for “provocation, conspiracy with the purpose of committing sedition,” alleging that the premier is pushing Catalonia to illegally secede from the kingdom of Spain.

Tejero, who was kicked out of the Civil Guard and served time in prison for the coup attempt, said in a letter published in Melilla Hoy that it was “unfortunate” that “neither the king nor the prime minister and the courts” have done anything yet to “stop this plot hatched by Mas and other Catalans.”

Mas, who views Sunday’s election as a plebiscite for Catalan independence, has said that he will hold a referendum next year on the region’s future status.

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