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Catalan police planned to burn evidence of diversion of €3 million to separatists

Judge says officers were set to incinerate documents showing alleged misuse of federal rescue funds

National Police officers outside the incinerator in Sant Adrià (Barcelona).
National Police officers outside the incinerator in Sant Adrià (Barcelona).

A Barcelona judge investigating crimes related to the illegal Independence referendum in Catalonia on October 1 has found evidence that €3 million in state funds was siphoned off for the independence cause.

The accounting details were discovered in the back of a van among 30 boxes of documents that the Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, planned to burn in an incinerator in Sant Adrià de Besòs, according to sources close to the investigation. The van was intercepted by Spanish National Police on October 26, just one day before the regional Catalan parliament passed a unilateral declaration of independence in defiance of Constitutional Court rulings.

Information in the documents reportedly explains a €3 million imbalance in regional accounts already identified by the finance ministry

Spanish National Police officers, who had been tipped off about the van full of boxes, seized the documents after tense talks with officers of the regional police force. Officers with the ‘Mossos,’ as they are known colloquially, demanded a court warrant before turning over the contents of the van. This order was delivered in a matter of hours with final sign-off coming from High Court judge Carmen Lamela, who is currently overseeing an investigation into the former head of the Catalan police force Josep Lluis Trapero.

Preliminary evidence suggests that the €3 million proceed from the federal rescue funds (FLA) designed to help Spain’s crisis-hit regions clear their debts. This money is distinct from the sums allegedly received in the form of regional government subsidies by civic organizations such as Òmnium Cultural and the National Catalan Assembly (ANC) from former premier Carles Puidgemont to carry out illicit pro-independence activities; these are currently being investigated by Civil Guard’s Central Operations Unit.

When Spanish finance minister Cristóbal Montoro moved to take over the accounts of the Catalan regional government last September, he announced that the destination of federal funds to the region would come in for special attention. Sources say information in the documents saved from the incinerator explain a €3 million imbalance in regional accounts already identified by the finance ministry after going through the Catalan books. And they argue that this money was diverted for use by the pro-independence movement.

Spanish National Police officers, who had been tipped off about the van full of boxes, seized the documents

This could constitute a crime of misuse of public funds, which carries a maximum sentence of eight years in jail under Spanish law.

The state attorney’s office has requested the investigation be handed over to Spain’s Supreme Court, given the involvement of state funds in the matter and the fact that Supreme Court Justice Pablo Llarena is already overseeing some 40 investigations related to the Catalan independence push.

English version by George Mills.

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