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CORRUPTION

Police search properties of Catalan ex-premier Pujol and three of his sons

Raid is related to money-laundering and fraud investigation into eldest son of the family

Video: Jordi Pujol and his wife leave their home.

The Spanish National Police on Tuesday raided the homes of former Catalan premier Jordi Pujol and three of his seven children in connection with a criminal investigation into tax fraud and money laundering.

Officers searched the personal residences of Pujol and of his sons Jordi Pujol Ferrusola (Junior), Josep and Pere after securing a warrant from High Court judge José de la Mata, sources familiar with the investigation told EL PAÍS. Several business premises are also being searched.

Officers searched the personal residences of Pujol and of his sons Jordi, Josep and Pere

The raids are part of an investigation into the former premier’s eldest son, Jordi Pujol Ferrusola, also known as Junior, who is believed to have benefited from his father’s position of power through lucrative contracts from the regional government.

The reason officers raided Pujol senior’s home on Tuesday was that his eldest son is temporarily living there to recover from a recent surgery, explained the same sources, adding that only the son's bedroom is being searched.

But this Madrid-led investigation is tied to another ongoing probe into the origin of the Pujol family fortune.

The Madrid inquiry has analyzed thousands of bank documents sent by authorities in Andorra, where the Pujols were found to have a hidden fortune that went undeclared to Spanish tax authorities for 34 years.

In January, the Pujol patriarch testified in a Barcelona court and told the judge that the millions of euros his family kept in Andorra and Switzerland were an inheritance received from his own father, Florenci.

But investigators are trying to determine whether the 85-year-old head of one of the most powerful families in Catalonia and founder of Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), the party of current premier Artur Mas, is lying about the origin of his fortune.

A police report from the summer of 2014 suggests that political corruption is the origin of the fortune amassed over the years by Pujol’s eldest son. Jordi Pujol Ferrusola was targeted by investigators after a former girlfriend told the police that he often traveled to Andorra and returned with bags full of €500 notes.

That report linked Pujol Ferrusola’s highly successful business ventures to “political initiatives by people within his most intimate circle,” an apparent reference to his father, Jordi Pujol, who ruled the region for 23 years between 1980 and 2003.

New documents provided by Andorran authorities show hundreds of suspicious transactions in which Pujol’s eldest son played a key role

Subsequent investigations showed that Pujol Ferrusola allegedly accepted €8 million in illegal commissions between 2004 and 2012, in exchange for ensuring that donors would receive Catalan government contracts.

Now, new documents provided by Andorran authorities show hundreds of suspicious transactions in which Pujol’s eldest son played a key role. These transactions benefited the family’s Andorra account, and the amounts involved are very high, said legal sources.

Four other Pujol children – Marta, Mireia, Pere and Oleguer – as well as their mother Marta Ferrusola, were targeted by a Barcelona judge over the family’s hidden fortune, which Pujol senior admitted to possessing in an open letter released last year. Another son, Oriol Pujol, was also investigated for dubious business activities.

So far, the family has been unable to produce documentary evidence to show that the money is a legacy received from Florenci Pujol.

Until now, the Barcelona and Madrid judicial inquiries had been running parallel despite their points in common. But anticorruption attorneys now say in a report that “the investigation into the origin of the fortune amassed by the children of the ex-Catalan premier cannot be conducted autonomously,” and are asking the Barcelona judge to hand the case over to the High Court in Madrid to coordinate all action against the Pujols.

 

Tuesday’s raids are the latest blow against CDC, whose headquarters and foundations have also been searched in a separate investigation into bribes for contracts and illegal funding. Catalan premier Artur Mas, who is seeking to serve a new term after winning regional elections in September with a separatist coalition of CDC and other parties, claims that the criminal investigations are part of a plan to derail the independence process in Catalonia.

English version by Susana Urra.