Just two days ahead of regional elections in Catalonia, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on Friday did nothing to quell the political ruckus raised by a dubious report, which is unsigned, unstamped and not addressed to anyone, suggesting that Catalan premier Artur Mas is corrupt.
During a news conference after the regular Cabinet meeting, Sáenz de Santamaría was asked five times about the “phantom” draft report insinuating that Mas and former Catalan premier Jordi Pujol have secret bank accounts in Switzerland where they reportedly deposited kickbacks-for contracts money.
Without mentioning Mas by name, Sáenz de Santamaría said that in line with the government’s current anti-fraud campaign, “the first thing that those who have overseas bank accounts must do is to declare them.”
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was more circumspect. “Allow me not to contribute more to this spectacle,” he said.
The report does carry a supposed employee number, which has been redacted. But police sources say that no officer would ever include this number in a report without adding their signature and a stamp.
Sources involved in the case suspect that no one in the National Police’s economic and tax delinquency squad (UDEF) compiled the report. The head of the UDEF, Manuel Vázquez, has already told a judge that he believes no one in his department was responsible for the document.
The money that Mas and Pujol supposedly received, according to the document, came from the so-called Palau case, in which Mas’ center-right nationalist coalition CiU is alleged to have received kickbacks for awarding contracts.
However, the details contained in the phantom report do not provide any new information about the Palau case, otherwise this would have been passed on to the investigating judge.
After a 24-hour investigation, the Interior Ministry confirmed that they had no record of the report, but the content, as reported by Spanish daily El Mundo, contained information about the case from the internet and from other minutes.
Vázquez corroborated comments by the Interior Ministry to the effect that the report appeared to have been drawn up outside normal procedures of the UDEF.
The existence of the draft report was announced last week by El Mundo, just 10 days ahead of the Catalan regional elections, due to take place on November 25.
Mas has attributed the furor sparked by the report to a ploy of the “sewers” of the state to try to influence the outcome of the elections, in which the CiU is hoping to garner an absolute majority in order to push ahead with plans to hold a referendum on independence for Catalonia. Opinion polls suggest Mas will fall short of what he needs.