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EDITORIAL
Editorials
These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

Unió admits its guilt

The party at last owns up to the crime of misuse of jobless-training funds, and pays for it

For the first time in the history of Spanish democracy, a political party, Unió Democràtica de Catalunya — the Christian-democrat wing of the Catalan governing coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU) — and its leaders most directly affected, now admit in court to having committed a crime of corruption (as individuals), and to having benefited from it (as a party), in the Pallerols case. And, in another first, the party has paid the substantial sum of 388,483 euros in civil responsibility damages for their illegal party financing.

In return, the offenders — former top officials in the regional center-right CiU government when it was headed by Jordi Pujol, and in the Unió party headed by Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida — will not go to prison. The prosecutor has agreed to reduce his demand for a prison sentence. Plea-bargaining is a type of deal which is very much in vogue in other jurisdictions, such as the Anglo-Saxon countries, and frequent in other sorts of crimes, such as those involving physical violence.

The crimes that the persons concerned committed, and to which they have now admitted guilt without possibility of appeal (the rulings are final as soon as they are passed), are misuse of public funds, fraudulent use of subsidies and falsifying documents. And Unió accepts its double guilt, in subsidiary civil responsibility on the part of its leaders, and as financial beneficiary of the crime, the party having illegally pocketed the great bulk of the embezzled sums.

The classification of the crimes does not accord sufficient emphasis to their morally repugnant character

But the technical legal classification of the crimes does not, in this case, accord sufficient emphasis to their morally and socially repugnant character. The embezzled sums, which mainly went to pay bureaucratic expenses and salaries within the party’s organization, were drained from funds intended for re-training of unemployed persons, to their evident detriment. Besides accepting the court’s version of the criminal practices, the party leadership would do well to make some public show of repentance for the illegal conduct of four of its members, and for the passive assent of Unió itself. Political responsibility extends far beyond the walls of the courtroom.

Some voices will express dissatisfaction because these political white-collar criminals do not have to go to prison. This is an understandable complaint, but it does not take into account the difficulty of proof (in this case, looming large in the prosecutor’s considerations) that played a role in the deal. Additionally, modern criminal law tends to stress the material aspect (the return of embezzled money) and the establishment of responsibility (individual and collective) to avoid repetition of the crime, rather than the desirability of punishment or vengeance.

The long duration of the trial, which has gone on for 14 years, was criticized by the (Unió) speaker of the Catalan parliament, Núria de Gispert, because such a deal “burns out people and institutions.” Quite right. But far more has been burnt by the members of her party, who put their hands in the till of the Generalitat, the Catalan institution of self-government.

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