Attorney from legal watchdog stopped at border with €9.5k in cash

President of CGPJ calls on Mercè Pigem to resign, despite amount being under legal limit Former CiU deputy was returning to Spain from Andorra when stopped by authorities

Mercè Pigem.
Mercè Pigem.JOAN SANCHEZ

The president of Spain’s legal watchdog has called for one of its members, Mercè Pigem, to resign, after it emerged that she was recently stopped at the border between Spain and Andorra carrying €9,500 in cash.

Pigem is one of the 20 members – known as vocales – of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), which is made up of judges and jurists and oversees the legal system in Spain. She was nominated to her position by Catalan nationalist bloc Convergence and Union (CiU).

According to a story published on Friday by El Periódico de Catalunya, Pigem was traveling in a car with her sister when she was stopped by the Spanish authorities at the border when leaving the northern principality of Andorra. As well as the cash in possession of Pigem, her sister was also carrying €10,360.

The allowed limit for undeclared cash when entering Spain is €10,000, meaning Pigem did not fall foul of the law

The allowed limit for undeclared cash when entering Spain is €10,000, meaning that Pigem had not fallen foul of the law. No action was taken against her at the time she was stopped. Her sister, however, was carrying an amount in excess of the legal limit, and the case has been passed onto Seplac, the service in charge of money-laundering investigations. That body will determine whether the origin of the money needs to be investigated.

In wake of the incident, Pigem was called to an urgent meeting on Friday with the CGPJ president, Carlos Lesmes. After the two met, Lesmes announced that he had called on Pigem to resign, and explained that she had promised to study the request and take a decision “as soon as possible.”

“After speaking to the vocal Mercè Pigem, and after she confirmed to me the facts of this incident, which do not constitute an offense or an administrative infraction, I have told her that, in spite of this, I believe that she should resign from her position given that the CGPJ, as the highest authority governing judges, should be an expression of exemplary behavior and generate confidence in citizens; values that could be seen as having been compromised in this situation,” read a statement released after the meeting.

The CGPJ president  does not have powers to sack vocales, who are usually appointed by Congress and the Senate

The president of the CGPJ does not have powers to sack vocales, who are usually appointed by Congress and the Senate. Pigem was appointed by the Senate after being nominated by CiU.

A vocal can be forced out of the CGPJ if three-fifths of its members vote in favor. Should Pigem refuse to resign, Lesmes could opt to take this route.

Pigem is an attorney specializing in marital and family law, and was a CiU deputy until she was named vocal in December 2013.

According to information published by El Periódico de Catalunya, the money had been given to Pigem by her mother, who lives in Andorra, for Christmas shopping

Pigem confirmed to news agency Europa Press the facts of the incident, but insisted that she had not committed any infraction given that the amount of money she was carrying was within the legal limit.

The principality of Andorra is located in the Pyrenees, bordered by Spain and France, and is famed for its banking sector and status as a tax haven.

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