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CATALAN ELECTIONS

Catalonia opposition demands Mas answer Swiss bank account allegations

Pujol threatens to take "El Mundo" to court for publishing allegations about his wealth

Mas' late father was found to have two million euros stashed away in Liechtenstein and Switzerland

Leaders across the political spectrum in Catalonia have asked regional premier Artur Mas to publicly deny allegations reportedly contained in a police report that he holds a secret bank account in Switzerland.

The information contained in a “draft” report prepared by the police has become a major campaign issue for Mas and his pro-independence platform as the race heats up before Sunday’s regional election. The report, which was first run on Saturday by El Mundo, claims that the money in the accounts comes from a four-percent “fee” Mas and the family of former Catalan premier, Jordi Pujol, who governed from 1980-2003, charged businessmen who wanted to win public contracts with the Catalan nationalist CiU bloc governments.

In 2008 tax inspectors found that Mas’ father, Artur Mas Banet, who died last March, had two million euros in accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland, but he regularized his situation with the Treasury and was never charged. The High Court in 2010 decided to drop the case because the statute of limitations had run out. But Mas Banet never publicly explained the source of his wealth.

The 82-year-old former premier Pujol, for his part, has announced that he plans on suing El Mundo for libel.

“While some are clamoring for an independent Catalonia, others are demanding a clean and decent Catalonia,” said Pere Navarro, the PSC Socialist candidate for premier. “I have never had an account in Switzerland or any other tax haven. And I want Mas to clear up any suspicion. If he says he doesn’t have any accounts, he will earn my political and personal support.”

Popular Party (PP) secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal, who is also regional premier in Castilla-La Mancha, was blunt. “Territories don’t have bank accounts in Switzerland,” she said. Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, the PP’s candidate, accused Mas of “using the Catalans and Catalonia to cover up corruption cases.”

Sources have told Efe news agency that Interior Ministry officials have begun investigating whether the police draft report is authentic and are looking to determine what became of it.

According to El Mundo, the report states that Pujol and his wife Marta Ferrusola amassed great amounts of wealth through “commissions” charged with the awarding of public contracts. UDEF fraud squad investigators found that Pujol and his wife transferred some of the money to Lloyds Bank in London. Pujol’s son, Jordi Pujol Ferrusola, also served as his father’s frontman in the transactions.

Investigators also said that the Pujol family has many investments in Argentina, the United States and other countries.