CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

Police chief denies existence of reports on Catalan leaders

Document was revealed by El Mundo newspaper last November in the midst of Catalan election campaign

The police chief in charge of investigating illegal commissions allegedly charged by Catalan officials for public contracts has denied the existence of a draft police report incriminating current premier Artur Mas and his predecessor, Jordi Pujol.

The report, which has not been officially published, was revealed by El Mundo newspaper last November, in the middle of the Catalan elections, which ultimately ended in a very slight victory for the incumbent Mas. The election results weakened the Catalan government's drive to carry out a referendum on independence for the region.

The police chief, who works for the Economic and Fiscal Crimes Unit (UDEF), told a judge that he had heard about this alleged report "through the media" and that he has "no knowledge about anyone in my unit having anything to do with it." He also noted that this supposed UDEF report had the police seal in an unusual place.

The report claimed that Mas and Pujol have bank accounts in Switzerland and that the money comes from a four-percent "fee" that they charged businessmen who wanted to win public contracts with the Catalan nationalist CiU bloc governments. Pujol, in power between 1980 and 2003, has sued El Mundo for libel. One of the journalists who wrote the story has already testified before a judge.

The El Mundo reporter said that the facts of the story were confirmed by "six or seven different sources"

Two days before regional elections, members of the SUP police union distributed this draft report and added a handwritten note mentioning a meeting between the police and the attorney working on the case. The gist of the meeting was allegedly that neither the judge nor the public prosecutor had any intention of investigating either Pujol's or Mas's bank accounts.

Last December, the chief inspector of UDEF, Manuel Vázquez, denied that his unit had written that draft report, and said "it cannot be validated."

Eduardo Inda, the El Mundo reporter, said that the facts of the story were confirmed by "six or seven different sources," although he refused to reveal their names, invoking his right to protect his sources. He specified that the sources came from within UDEF and the Interior Ministry, and that the fact that UDEF leaders deny the existence of this report can be explained "possibly out of fear of being accused of revealing secrets." Following the publication of the anonymous report, the Interior Ministry declared it was unaware of its existence, but lent it credibility and said some of the reported facts had been entered into the court records.

The case is known as Caso Palau because the commissions were channeled through the landmark concert hall Palau de la Música in order to make them look like corporate sponsorship of the arts. Instead, investigators believe this money to be a fee paid by the construction company Ferrovial to Convergència Democrática de Catalunya (CDC), one half of the CiU bloc that rules the region.

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Redactor de tribunales El País. Barcelona

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