LEGAL SCANDAL

Dívar's "official business" on weekend trips lasted just hours

Records reveal Chief Justice mixed business with pleasure

Spain's legal watchdog, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), footed the bill for four-day trips to Marbella made by Chief Justice Carlos Dívar despite the fact that official ceremonies he attended while there sometimes lasted just a few hours, or took place in a different province some 200 kilometers away. That's according to the records of an inquiry that was shelved by prosecutors.

Dívar, who has been under fire for nearly a month about using public funds for his trips, assured the Attorney General's Office that he paid for five trips to Marbella out of his own pocket, apart from costs where he was entitled to reimbursement from the CGPJ.

The trips lasted between four and five days and always coincided with a weekend. The chief justice took 20 working days (Thursday, Friday and Monday) during these trips, records show.

Seventy-year-old Dívar, who is also president of the CGPJ, has dodged calls for his resignation, saying that he has done nothing wrong. But records from the Attorney General's Office, which decided to drop the inquiry, raise more questions as to why Dívar charged trips where he apparently mixed business with pleasure to the judiciary.

On May 8, fellow CGPJ member José Manuel Gómez Benitez filed the complaint against Dívar for misuse of public funds for 20 long weekend trips he took from 2008 until March of this year, staying in Puerto Banús, outside Marbella. He charged the judiciary 13,000 euros.

During an unprecedented news conference last week, Dívar declined to provide any details or say who was he with, citing judiciary confidentiality. The chief justice said that he is on call 24 hours a day.

But the details given to the Attorney General show that on at least five trips, "official business" was conducted in just a few hours - but the CGPJ paid for the entire weekend.

One such jaunt took place between March 24 and 28, 2008 when Dívar went to Marbella for a ceremony when the chief justice of the Málaga provincial court was given an award. The celebration began at 12.30pm on March 25, but Dívar arrived the day before in Puerto Banús and stayed until Sunday at the expense of the CGPJ.

Entire weekend stay

On another trip, Dívar arrived in Marbella on Thursday November 25, 2010 for an official visit to Cádiz - located roughly 200 kilometers away - where he was to meet with the chief justice of the Cádiz provincial court. He stayed until the following Monday.

For a trip that took place from September 23 to September 26, 2010, Dívar justified his expenses to attend the Bicentennial celebrations of the Cádiz local parliament. The ceremony took place on Friday but the council paid for his entire weekend stay.

On Saturday September 11, 2010, Dívar arrived in Puerto Banús and stayed until Wednesday September 15. The purpose of this CGPJ-paid trip was for "meetings with the Málaga provincial chief justice and a visit to the Judicial Center and other dependencies."

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