POLITICAL ESPIONAGE

Who spied on the Catalan PP chief? Attorneys press on despite out-of-court settlement

Sánchez-Camachi withdrew complaint after being bugged, but prosecutors consider case to be in “public interest”

Alicia Sánchez-Camacho.
Alicia Sánchez-Camacho.

Who ordered a detective agency to spy on Catalonia's conservative leader Alicia Sánchez-Camacho? The million-dollar question is closer to getting a definitive answer. After an intense legal debate, Attorney General Eduardo Torres-Dulce has approved a request by anti-corruption prosecutors to keep investigating the case even though Camacho herself has dropped the charges.

Attorneys Emilio Sánchez and Fernando Bermejo will continue to delve into the events that led to a microphone being concealed at the table where Camacho, the Popular Party (PP) leader in Catalonia, had lunch with a former girlfriend of Jordi Pujol Ferrusola, one of the sons of longtime Catalan premier Jordi Pujol, of the nationalist CiU.

During this lunch, which took place at a restaurant called La Camarga in July 2010, Victoria Álvarez told Camacho that while she and Pujol Ferrusola were dating, the political scion used to travel to the nearby state of Andorra, a notorious tax haven, and return with wads of 200- and 500-euro notes. A judge is investigating these allegations.

Around two weeks ago, Camacho reached an out-of-court settlement with the detective agency in charge of the spying job, Método 3, the Catalan senator then dropping the charges in exchange for 80,000 euros and Método 3's acceptance of all responsibility in the case. She also declined to appear as a private plaintiff in ongoing criminal proceedings over the alleged political espionage.

"Pact of silence"

Her decision drew criticism from other parties, which accused her of connivance in a "pact of silence" regarding the true identity of the individual who ordered the spying. In February, when the case made the news, the national daily El Mundo pointed the finger at José Zaragoza, the former organization secretary for the Catalan Socialists. But Método 3 detectives who were arrested in relation to the case, including agency chief Paco Marco, said that people in the PP were aware of the spying, even Camacho herself.

Her decision to drop the charges nearly brought the investigation to a halt, since the alleged crime is considered "semi-public" in nature meaning the plaintiff's pardon extinguishes all penal responsibility.

But prosecutors explored ways of keeping the case open and found one: because Camacho is a deputy and a senator, prosecutors argued that she belongs to high-ranking state institutions and that the case falls into the "public interest" category. The attorney general, after some deliberation, has agreed with their views.

Meanwhile, the police already believe they have a solid theory as to the identity of the person who had Camacho spied on, and a preliminary report has been sent to the attorney's office.

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