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THE POLITICS OF CORRUPTION

Two senior officers tried to muscle in on CiU corruption probe

Catalan prosecutor received strange request shortly before appearance of rogue police reports in the press

The prosecutor overseeing an investigation into high-level corruption within the Catalan regional government says he was asked by two senior police officers to turn over the investigation to them.

On October 28, in the run-up to the Catalan regional election, the former head of the UDEF Fiscal and Economic Crime Unit, José Luis Oliveras, who is now the head of CICO, the Organized Crime Intelligence Center, met with the man in charge of the Palau corruption investigation, Emilio Sánchez Ulled.

The Palau probe has exposed an illegal-payment network used by companies such as Ferrovial to pay commissions to the CiU political bloc in return for contracts from the regional government led by Jordi Pujol up to 2003.

Sánchez Ulled says Oliveras’ excuse for the meeting was to introduce him to Marcelino Martín Blas, the head of the police’s Internal Affairs division. Oliveras got straight to the point, recommending that Internal Affairs take over the investigation.

The day will come when the UDEF fraud squad will no longer be seen as credible"

A few days after the meeting, the rightwing daily newspaper El Mundo published stories based on falsified UDEF reports accusing leading members of CiU — among them regional premier Artur Mas — of money laundering. Mas called early elections for November, announcing that the countdown to a future sovereignty referendum had started.

The first report was described as a fake by the UDEF chief officer when he testified before a judge. Another five unsigned reports have come to light and are circulating among conservative media. The reports mixed uncorroborated accusations from preliminary investigations and anonymous sources with the results of earlier reports on the Palau case. This supposedly fresh material was then leaked to newspapers.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz says he knows nothing about the provenance of the falsified police reports.

Sánchez Ulled says that as well as trying to involve Martín Blas in the Palau investigation, Oliveras asked him to approve search warrants for the headquarters of CiU and the house of the party’s former treasurer. Sánchez Ulled turned down the requests, pointing out that any evidence that might have been found at either location would long since have been removed.

The two police officers then showed Sánchez Ulled what they said was a report into the Palau case, but which turned out to be little more than a chronology of the investigation with fragments from the case summary that Sánchez Ulled himself had written. He suggested that they ask the judge overseeing the case for a search warrant. Sánchez Ulled subsequently informed his superiors, as well as the judge overseeing the case, about the strange meeting with the two police officers.

So far, the head of Spain’s police, Ignacio Cosidó, has not taken any disciplinary measures against the two officers.

“If these unidentified officers are acting under instructions from the Interior Ministry or the government, it would be very serious. But it is equally serious if they are acting on their own initiative, because it would mean that a unit within the police was able to make serious accusations of corruption with no evidence,” says one high-ranking source in the State Prosecution Office.

“The day will come,” says one member of the judiciary who has been following the case closely, “when the UDEF will no longer be seen as credible. The fallout from this will be felt for a long time.”