JUSTICE SYSTEM

Prosecutor shelves probe into chief justice’s all-expenses-paid weekend trips

Judge Dívar considered not to have profited from Marbella getaways

Watchdog secretary claims he had no knowledge of jaunts

A Supreme Court prosecutor announced Monday that it was dropping an investigation into Chief Justice Carlos Dívar for charging 20 weekend jaunts to Puerto Banús to the judiciary’s coffers after determining that he didn’t intend to profit from any of the trips.

The surprise move by the assistant Supreme Court prosecutor, Juan José Martín Castillo, has raised a lot of questions. Castillo had asked Celso Rodríguez Padrón, the secretary general of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) legal watchdog, in which Dívar also serves as head, to certify the trips that the chief justice had taken between 2008 and March of this year, with a grand total of 18,654 euros charged to the judiciary.

Rodríguez Padrón said that he could not issue the certification because he was not present and had no personal knowledge of the trips.

The assistant prosecutor didn’t conduct any other inquiry to determine whether these trips were connected with official business before issuing his final resolution.

Dívar stayed at a luxurious hotel in Puerto Banús, and charged expensive dinners to the judiciary's coffers

Under the CGPJ’s rules, in filing for reimbursement, Dívar didn’t have to state what the motive of the trips was and because the CGPJ reimbursed him for the excursions, they are considered official, the assistant prosecutor explained.

At the same time, Dívar’s chief of staff, Eduardo Menéndez, sent a letter last Friday to Castillo explaining that motives of some of these trips are considered “confidential” under the law and those details could not be publicly released. Castillo also included that argument in the final resolution.

Menéndez had been nominated some time back by Dívar for a spot on the Supreme Court, but failed to muster enough votes among CGPJ members.

The original complaint by fellow CGPJ member, José Manuel Gómez Benítez, alleged that Dívar had charged 5,658 euros to the judiciary to pay for six long weekend getaways in Puerto Banús, near Marbella, between September 2010 and November 2011. It was amended to include another 14 journeys.

Dívar stayed at the same luxurious hotel in Puerto Banús, and charged expensive dinners for two to the judiciary's coffers, the complaint states. Even though he took the AVE high-speed train, riding in business class, the judiciary had to pay for lodgings and meals for his bodyguards, and also dispatched official vehicles to Marbella for his use.

In a radio interview earlier this month, the chief justice denied that he had misused his expense account, explaining that there was a difference between personal expenses, which he says he paid out of his own pocket, and official expenses.

Dívar was expected to meet with the CGPJ members later Monday to explain the situation.

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