Dívar faces up to fresh dozen weekend trips charged to judiciary
“Invitation” jaunts all around the country cost taxpayers further 15,000 euros
The chief justice’s publicly paid trips keep adding up. Based on new information gathered by a member of Spain’s legal watchdog panel, Supreme Court head Carlos Dívar charged an additional 15.185 euros to the judiciary for 12 previously undeclared long weekends across the country from March 2008 to June 2011.
The new amount adds to the 13,000 euros Dívar spent on 20 four- and five-day weekend trips to Marbella’s Puerto Banús, as part of which he also charged dinners with his personal assistant Jerónimo Escorial to the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ).
CGPJ member José Manuel Gómez Benítez, who unsuccessfully tried to get the Attorney General’s Office last month to prosecute Dívar for misuse of public funds, found that the chief justice, who also serves as CGPJ president, made four trips to Bilbao, two to Barcelona, three to Galicia, and visited Valencia, Palma de Mallorca and Oviedo on at least one occasion during this period.
During a June 1 news conference, Dívar explained that all the trips he made to Marbella and the rest of Andalusia coincided with the demands of official business, such as visiting the courts in Cádiz and Málaga. He said that he separated his professional and personal expenses.
But in this latest inventory of trips, EL PAÍS was able to determine that the chief justice at times charged 500 euros per night for hotel stays to the CGPJ.
On one trip to Bilbao from Friday July 23 to Sunday July 25, 2010, Dívar claimed he attended the swearing-in ceremony of Juan Luis Ibarra as chief justice in the Basque Country. But the ceremony actually took place on May 10, 2010.
I was there, and Ibarra’s swearing in took place on a Monday in May and not during a weekend in July"
“I was there, and Ibarra’s swearing in took place on a Monday in May and not during a weekend in July as Dívar claims,” said Gómez Benítez. Andalusian city halls have also said that they cannot corroborate some of Dívar’s statements to the effect that he had attended official events under their auspices.
On Tuesday, after Benítez’s information had been posted on different newspaper websites, Dívar sent out a statement clarifying that he effectively did attend Ibarra’s swearing in on Monday May 10. But just before, records show, he stayed from Thursday to Sunday in Palma de Mallorca, charging 1,752 euros to his judicial expense account.
The weekend trip in July 2010 was “an invitation” by the Cantabria tourism department. But despite the fact that it was an “official” invitation, Dívar still charged 1,045 euros to the CGPJ to visit the medieval seaside village of Santillana del Mar.
In response to an EL PAÍS story that the chief justice dined with his personal assistant Escorial, who is also head of his security detail, Dívar simply said “it isn’t that way” but offers no other explanation.
Sources at the CGPJ and the High Court have said that Escorial, who has been working with Dívar for 15 years, frequently travels and dines with the chief justice.
Escorial declined to comment about the issue.