High-ranking Catalan politician named as formal suspect in corruption case

Oriol Pujol “delegates” his duties after decision by regional High Court of Justice

Oriol Pujol speaks to the press on Tuesday to announce he will be delegating his responsibilities.
Oriol Pujol speaks to the press on Tuesday to announce he will be delegating his responsibilities. ALBERTO ESTÉVEZ (EFE)

The High Court of Justice in Catalonia announced on Tuesday that it was naming one of the leaders of the CDC Catalan nationalist party as a formal suspect in an ongoing corruption investigation. Oriol Pujol, the number two in the CDC - which is one half of the ruling Convergence and Union coalition (CiU) - is suspected of involvement in a scheme to rig the awarding of public contracts within the ITV vehicle-licensing system. Pujol, who is the right-hand man of regional premier Artur Mas, could be facing charges of influence-peddling.

The decision, which was announced three weeks after the case arrived at the Catalan High Court of Justice (TSJC), prompted Pujol to announce on Tuesday that he would be handing over his responsibilities to three CDC party members, although he will not be stepping down from his role as a deputy in the regional parliament.

The case was handed to the TSJC from a lower court given that as a deputy, Pujol is granted immunity from prosecution. At the beginning of February, the anti-corruption prosecutor sent a report to a judge in which Mas was accused of “coordinating, directing and protecting the criminal activity” of the other suspects in the ITV corruption case.

Pujol’s objective, according to the public prosecutor, was to benefit financially from the scheme via a company that would be favored in the future awarding of concessions. The prosecutor alleges that Pujol used his position as general secretary of the CDC and as president of the CiU parliamentary group to “apply pressure” in his favor.

Specifically, Pujol is alleged to have exerted influence over the general secretary of the regional industry department at the time of the allegations, Enric Colet, to see that two of his trusted associates were given key roles.

After learning about the TSJC’s decision, Oriol Pujol spoke at a press conference at the headquarters of CDC to announce that he would be “delegating” his responsibilities to other members of the party. He also sought to justify his decision not to step down as a deputy. “Leaving my seat would be like admitting my guilt,” he said on Tuesday, adding that he would continue to work as a “grass-roots party activist.” No one in the CiU, however, seems to harbor any doubt that he will continue to exert considerable influence over the region’s politics.

Oriol Pujol is the son of Jordi Pujol, a veteran Catalan politician who was the region’s leader for more than two decades. Another of his sons, also named Jordi, is currently under investigation for alleged involvement in a separate corruption case.


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