THE POLITICS OF CORRUPTION

Police officers using extra-legal methods to attack Catalan politicians

Unknown officials issue anonymous and unsourced reports to level grave accusations of corruption at the feet of Artur Mas’s CiU coalition

A group of police officers shrouded in anonymity are publishing unsigned reports in which grave accusations of corruption are leveled at high-ranking Catalan government officials, certain judges and prosecutors who have been tasked with investigating graft among nationalist politicians, and against executives from the region’s leading daily newspapers.

This anonymous police conspiracy, from sources apparently beyond Interior Ministry control, was launched when the CiU nationalist bloc regional administration of Artur Mas began its slide toward a separatist defiance of the government in Madrid, calling early elections for November and subsequently announcing that the countdown to a future sovereignty referendum had started.

Police sources believe that the officials who are drawing up these reports are motivated by the perceived danger of a break-up of the Spanish state. First, this group of law-enforcement officers distributed a report, supposedly by the UDEF Fiscal and Economic Crime Unit, which was designed to discredit premier Mas in the midst of the autumn electoral campaign. The report, which formed the basis of a series of articles in the Madrid daily El Mundo, was described as a fake by the UDEF chief officer when he testified before a judge.

Now another five also unsigned reports have come to light and are circulating among conservative media.

According to analysis of these new reports by EL PAÍS, the anonymous police officers detail facts which have already been proven and included in court documents and mix them with uncorroborated accusations from preliminary investigations, proceeding from anonymous sources. This supposedly fresh material is then leaked to newspapers, whose front-page extrapolations tend to exaggerate yet further claims that have no solid judicial basis.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz admits that he is still unaware of the document’s provenance

Even so, senior figures in the Popular Party (PP) government have made references to these reports. Ministers, such as Finance chief Cristóbal Montoro, have gone so far as to demand explanations from CiU politicians whose names appear in these unsourced reports.

But within the Interior Ministry there is growing alarm over these practices. Seven weeks after the first appearance of the draft UDEF report which stated, without detailing any evidence, that Artur Mas had been receiving illegal commissions from companies via Swiss bank accounts, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz admits that he is still unaware of the document’s provenance.

The main target of these accusations, members of the Catalan nationalist ruling class, is currently affected by several judicial proceedings, notably the “Palau” and “ITV” cases, in which solid evidence of corrupt practices is stacked up against figures from Convergència, the senior partner in CiU.

In the anonymous police reports currently in circulation — all titled “Palau investigation. Situation analysis” and dated between September 12 and October 31 of this year — the sources quoted are listed as being from the “non-nationalist judicial sector, Catalan business circles, foreign police forces, suspects willing to cooperate and Mossos [Catalan security corps] labor leaders.”

Among those under court orders in Spain with information to offer is said to be Hervé Falciani, the French-Italian former HSBC employee who leaked online information about 130,000 tax evaders with accounts at the bank’s Swiss branch. The reports suggest that Falciani, who has recently been released on bail by Spain’s High Court, could provide information on money allegedly secreted away to Switzerland by Catalan officials.

The anonymous police sources criticize the judges and prosecutors who are investigating corruption among politicians, suggesting that they are trying to cover up the extent of the scandal because they themselves are on the CiU’s payroll. But these judicial officials are the same ones who have brought charges against CiU’s former treasurer and asked the coalition to pay civil liability bail of 3.2 million euros. The Palau investigation has exposed an illegal-payment network used by major companies such as Ferrovial to pay commissions to CiU in return for contracts from the regional government led by Jordi Pujol up to 2003.

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