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POLITICAL CORRUPTION

Foundation may have provided Catalan party with irregular financing

Fòrum Barcelona, tied to CDC, allegedly received millions from donors despite no known activity

Civil Guard officers walk out of Catdem and Fòrum Barcelona after searching the premises in August.
Civil Guard officers walk out of Catdem and Fòrum Barcelona after searching the premises in August.

A foundation with ties to Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) – the Catalan premier Artur Mas’s party – received money from private donors that was later unlawfully channeled to the organization, investigators believe.

Fòrum Barcelona, a secondary organization, received €3.68 million from private companies between 2007 and 2013. Of this amount, €2.2 million was transferred to the party itself and to its official foundation, CatDem, which is already under investigation by the Anti-corruption Attorney’s Office for taking illegal commissions in exchange for awarding government contracts.

Despite its low public profile, Fòrum Barcelona managed to attract numerous donors who contributed €384,000 to €735,000 a year

Premier Artur Mas, who won last Sunday’s parliamentary elections with the Junts pel Sí bloc – which includes his CDC party and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) – has sought to portray the ongoing investigation as an attack against his independence bid for the region.

But other Catalan parties – including CUP, a small leftist group which now holds the key to the regional government – have been highly critical of what they see as ongoing political corruption by a party that has been in power for decades.

Even though Fòrum Barcelona’s mission was “to be an open space for participation at the service of civil society” and to “analyze urban problems,” only a minimum share of its resources was devoted to these goals between 2007 and 2013.

Accounts show that 80 percent of income was used for financial aid to CatDem and to pay for work allegedly done by CDC but which the Audit Court feels is not sufficiently credited.

Financial documents also show that despite its low public profile, Fòrum Barcelona managed to attract numerous donors who contributed between €384,000 and €735,000 a year.

In 2014, the foundation was liquidated and its activities transferred to CatDem. Until 2013, donations represented 95 percent of Fòrum Barcelona’s annual revenues.

Although the foundation’s accounts do not include a list of donors, they do mention two agreements with Cirsa Gaming Corporation and ACS Foundation. A separate investigation into a company named Teyco shows that this constructor paid €50,000 to Fòrum Barcelona in 2009 (see sidebar).

All three companies are also on the list of donors of the CatDem foundation, published by EL PAÍS on September 14.

During the seven years that Fòrum Barcelona received nearly €3.7 million in donations, the larger CatDem – CDC’s official foundation – received exactly twice that amount, €7.4 million.

Most of the smaller foundation’s money ended up in CDC coffers – €1.36 million according to the Audit Court. Another €838,000 went to CatDem. Of the remaining money, €819,000 was used for personnel costs and €1.18 million put to other uses.

Precedents of CDC corruption

O.G.

There is a precedent in the Palau case, involving millions of euros skimmed from money grants paid by constructors to the concert hall and diverted to CDC, which gave donors public works contracts. Sixteen people are pending trial over that scandal after a six-year investigation.

The Teyco case broke in June 2014, when the Civil Guard arrested Torredembarra mayor Daniel Masagué (CDC), six members of his government team and a local businessman. Teyco subsidiaries allegedly paid two companies owned by Masagué over €581,000 for non-existent work. A judge is investigating what the money was really used for.

Despite the large figures, Fòrum Barcelona’s public activity was minimal. Its 2008 report only mentions one conference and one interview by former Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias, who was still running for the post at the time; there was also one Municipal Day at CDC headquarters, one book presentation and four panel discussions, most of whose panelists were party leaders.

Accounts show that these activities cost a just few thousand euros to organize. The bulk of the foundation’s outlays went to CatDem and to “professional services” from CDC.

Yet the law states that at least 70 percent of a foundation’s revenues must be used for its stated goals. Fòrum Barcelona never reached anywhere near that percentage, but it concealed this fact by passing off the money transfers to CatDem and CDC as being related to its foundational goals of “promoting democratic citizen participation and the mechanisms to resolve urban problems” and “encouraging citizen information mechanisms.”

A spokesman for CDC admitted that Fòrum Barcelona did not have a lot of public activity, but defended its accounts.

“The foundation did many other things that were not necessarily public. It commissioned reports and strategy work, and if you want that work to be good, you have to pay for it, whether it is done by the party, by CatDem or by whoever.”

But the existence of this work has been questioned by the Audit Court. During the Palau case investigation, it emerged that alleged work done by CDC was fictitious and just a cover for the money transfers from the concert hall.

Even if the work for Fòrum Barcelona did exist, it would mean that CDC charged its own foundation €1.3 million for reports whose ultimate recipient was the party itself.

English version by Susana Urra.