Dívar’s fellow judges keep file closed on expenses-paid pleasure trips
Chief justice will not be investigated by Supreme Court for misuse of public funds, but legal watchdog must still decide his fate
The Supreme Court on Wednesday voted not to review a misuse of public funds complaint filed against Chief Justice Carlos Dívar for charging 32 weekend trips to Marbella’s Puerto Banús and other destinations across Spain in which he combined business with pleasure.
Four of the justices had called for Dívar to resign from the presidency of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) legal watchdog. In the end, they were outvoted by the other 11 panel members, and the petition for an investigation filed by the legal group Preeminence of Law was denied.
The chief justice, who has so far dodged growing calls for his resignation, now faces another vote, which could come as early as Thursday, among his CGPJ colleagues. Dívar, however, has announced that he wants to hold a special CGPJ session on June 21.
The Supreme Court had already shelved a prior complaint filed by a CGPJ colleague, José Manuel Gómez Benítez, on May 30. The Attorney General’s Office determined that Dívar hadn’t committed any wrongdoing because he didn’t personally benefit from the money he charged the judiciary, and that his trips were official in nature.
The 70-year-old Dívar has come under fire for charging taxpayers 30,000 euros for 12 trips to Marbella and other long weekend excursions to Bilbao, Palma de Mallorca, Oviedo and Valencia. Since the first complaint was filed early last month, the controversy has ballooned following the host of discrepancies Dívar has so far offered concerning the real purposes of these trips.
For example, on one trip to Bilbao from Friday July 23 to Sunday July 25, 2010, Dívar originally explained that he was attending the swearing-in ceremony for the Basque Country’s local chief justice. However, a check by EL PAÍS discovered that the ceremony actually took place on May 10, 2010.
Dívar then explained in a press statement Tuesday that he was actually in Cantabria, invited by the regional government’s local tourism office.
But Miguel Ángel Revilla, the Cantabria regional premier at the time, denied that his government ever invited Dívar. “If that gentleman says we invited him, he is lying,” Revilla told EL PAÍS in a phone interview on Tuesday. “Never in my life have I ever seen him here in Cantabria.”
After Wednesday’s vote at the Supreme Court, five CGPJ members have asked that the legal watchdog push up the date of its special session to discuss whether to kick Dívar off the panel.
Dívar, who denied on June 1 that he had broken any laws, is scheduled to preside over a public ceremony on Monday held to mark the 200th anniversary of the Supreme Court. King Juan Carlos is expected to be present as will the chief justices from various top courts across Latin America.