Spain’s acting interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, says he has no intention of resigning over a leaked telephone conversation with the head of the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia (OAC), in which both men discuss the possibility of targeting Catalan pro-independence politicians or their close relatives through corruption probes and then leaking the investigations to the media.
Asked by EL PAÍS late on Wednesday afternoon if he would heed calls from the opposition, Catalan regional parties and labor unions for him to stand down over the conversations, which took place two years ago, Fernández Díaz replied: “I wouldn’t give supporters of independence the pleasure.”
This is a broad conspiracy, which has chosen the right moment and is clearly aimed at damaging me and the Popular Party
Jorge Fernández Díaz
Instead, the senior Popular Party official insists the leaks are part of a conspiracy designed to harm the PP in the run up to Sunday’s general election, which the PP is expected to narrowly win. “This is a broad conspiracy, which has chosen the right moment and is clearly aimed at damaging me and the Popular Party.”
The recordings date from October 2 and 16, 2014, according to the left-leaning online newspaper Público. Catalonia held a non-binding referendum on independence on November 9, 2014, a vote that the PP government at the time fiercely opposed.
The cases discussed in the recorded talks involve Roger Junqueras, brother of left-wing, pro-independence ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, who is also the deputy premier of the regional government of Catalonia. Roger worked at the Cespa energy company when it won a contract from the Catalan government. Another name mentioned in the conversations was Felip Puig, a senior official at the conservative Convergència party and who has held a number of positions in different Catalan regional administrations.
Fernández Díaz admits that the conversations took place, but says that references to leaking any investigations to the media so as to force a judicial investigation have been “taken out of context.”
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When asked to confirm that he told De Alfonso that acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy knew about the plans, Fernández Díaz said that he was not referring to a supposed plot to expose Catalan politicians, but to another matter, although he refused to say what it was. “Good God, how would I tell the prime minister all the details of investigations underway? What sense would it make for me to keep him abreast of all those details?” he said.
Fernández Díaz, who has been interior minister since 2012, denies rumors over the existence of an ad hoc unit of police officers under his command tasked with concocting false reports into opposition politicians that could be used to launch judicial investigations.
English version by Nick Lyne.