Another treasurer for Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), the party of acting Catalan premier Artur Mas, was arrested Friday morning in connection with a wide-reaching graft probe.
The detention of former CDC moneyman Daniel Osàcar follows the Wednesday arrest of current party treasurer Andreu Viloca as part of a raid in which 10 others were also detained.
Some of the suspects are business leaders believed to have paid illegal commissions to CDC officials at the local and regional level in order to secure government contracts.
Authorities are also investigating CDC foundations thought to have served for illegal party funding by attracting donations that were later funneled to CDC’s own coffers.
The “three-percent scandal,” as it is being dubbed by the opposition because many of the alleged commissions represented three percent of the contract value, has engulfed Artur Mas, who appeared in the Catalan parliament on Friday to offer explanations on the case.
If this were a basketball team, Viloca would be the point guard” Investigation sources
So far, Mas – whose separatist Junts pel Sí coalition won regional elections last month – has portrayed the police action against his party as politically motivated. On September 2, days before the election, Mas was already forced to address the Catalan parliament after CDC headquarters were searched repeatedly in connection with the case.
At the time, he attacked the central government of Mariano Rajoy, of the center-right Popular Party (PP), and claimed that the searches were Madrid’s way of fighting the Catalan independence bid.
But this is not the first time that the party in power has been embroiled in an illegal funding investigation. The most recent detainee, Daniel Osàcar, who was party treasurer between 2005 and 2010, is also involved in the Palau scandal, which is now ready for trial after a years-long investigation.
Mas insists on transparency
During his Friday morning appearance to offer explanations about the three-percent commissions scandal to the Catalan parliament, acting premier Artur Mas insisted that the Generalitat regional government’s public tenders are a role model of transparency.
“Citizens can easily access at all times all the information regarding any contract awarded by the Generalitat,” he said. “Right now, the Generalitat is the only one in Spain offering this kind of information to citizens.”
“There is no possibility of influencing in a partisan way on the public tender system,” he reiterated.
Anti-corruption attorneys want Osàcar to serve seven years in prison for accepting bribe money from construction company Ferrovial, passing it off as donations to the Palau concert hall, then channeling the money to party coffers.
In the “three-percent” case, investigators believe that construction firms pretended to donate money to CDC’s foundations, which sent it along to headquarters, whose leaders then awarded major contracts to the donors.
The first public reference to the possible existence of illegal commissions was made over 10 years ago by then-regional premier Pasqual Maragall, of the Catalan Socialists.
On February 24, 2005 Maragall accused the previous government of CiU – a coalition of CDC and the Democratic Union of Catalonia – of having charged “a three-percent commission” to award a construction contract for the Barcelona subway system. Artur Mas, then the opposition leader, immediately threatened to withdraw support for the government if Maragall did not take back his words.
Meanwhile, current CDC treasurer Viloca has been denied the possibility of bail due to the risk that he could skip the country or destroy sensitive documents. During the first raid against his office, on August 28, the Civil Guard found important material that had been put through the shredder.
“If this were a basketball team, Viloca would be the point guard,” said sources familiar with the investigation, in a reference to the pivotal role played by the suspect in channeling funds from donors to CDC coffers.
The investigation is being led by a court in El Vendrell (Tarragona), where examining magistrate Josep Bosch already sent the mayor of Torredembarra, Daniel Masagué, to prison in June after discovering that he had accepted €400,000 from Teyco, a construction company that carried out public works for the town.
Anticorruption attorneys also have their sights on Josep Antoni Rosell, the number two official at Infraestructures.cat, a public agency that handles Catalonia’s largest public works contracts. Rosell, who was also arrested on Wednesday, is thought to be the mastermind behind a system that benefited companies with ties to CDC.
English version by Susana Urra.