The Court of Accounts has closed the door to the mechanism devised by the Generalitat of Catalonia to assume, with public funds, the guarantees required of 34 former high-ranking officials and officials of the Catalan Administration. The court has denied the guarantees with which the Government intended to pay the 5.4 million euros that this institution claims from the defendants for the money that the Generalitat spent for years in the international promotion of the process independentista. The investigating delegate of the file, Esperanza García, considers that this formula of securing the required amount cannot be accepted because Catalan legislation itself does not protect irregular actions by public officials carried out with intent or gross negligence, that is, with full knowledge of the inadmissibility of the expense or with conscious recklessness when carrying it out or authorizing it. This decision is actionable by those affected, so that in the short term it will not yet lead to seizures of their assets to cover the bonds.
The resolution of the instructor, to which EL PAÍS has had access, maintains that “from the analysis carried out” of the Generalitat’s own decree-law that created the mechanism to face accounting responsibilities “it is agreed not to admit the guarantees guaranteed with public funds issued by the Catalan Institute of Finance, as it does not protect malicious conduct or behavior marked by acts carried out with negligence or gross negligence ”. And that indication of malicious conduct or negligence “necessarily” existed, adds the investigator, because if it had not, it would not have given rise to the file for alleged accounting responsibility and the demand for bonds imposed by the court itself. Among the defendants are former Catalan presidents Carles Puigdemont and Artur Mas, and former vice president Oriol Junqueras.
In parallel, the Prosecution Chamber of the Court of Accounts – made up of José Manuel Suárez Robledano, María Antonia Lozano and Felipe García Ortiz – has unanimously rejected all the appeals presented by the defenses of the 34 former high-ranking officials against the liquidation act that sets the bonds of 5.4 million euros. The defendants were protesting an alleged defenselessness that caused them the little time they had to know the file and make allegations. The court has considered that these terms were the normal ones and that in their last phase they were even extended.
The order of denial of the appeals responds to specific questions raised by some of the investigated ones; for example, by Puigdemont, who demanded recognition of his alleged immunity as a member of the European Parliament. The court maintains that it does not have this prerogative, due to the economic nature of the proceedings before it, which has nothing to do with the criminal proceedings in which Puigdemont (a fugitive in Brussels) is being processed in absentia. Immunity, in short, is considered non-existent for the purposes of claiming financial responsibilities for the alleged misuse of public funds for the promotion of the process abroad.
The Court of Accounts also refuses to approach the Constitutional Court to raise a question of unconstitutionality regarding the procedure followed; and denies the argument that expenses have been included in the case that were not actually undue but part of the powers of the Generalitat in foreign affairs. The defenses alleged that many trips whose expenses are now computed as irregular were for purposes as lawful as giving a conference or promoting business or industrial projects in Catalonia, and that, although in this context, assertions could be made about self-determination or the will to celebrate an independence referendum, that was not the initial reason for the organized visit. The court responds that it has not included in the claim for funds any activity of foreign action within the scope of competences of the autonomous community, but only the expenses that have been estimated made for other purposes that exceed such attributions.
The Prosecution Chamber has considered inadmissible the initiative of the investigating delegate, Esperanza García, to ask the State Attorney for a report on the legality of the guarantees with which the Generalitat proposed to face the guarantee of 5.4 million euros . The Legal Profession, in any case, has already refused to carry out this report, considering that it would generate a conflict of interest, given that the legal services of the State have so far been part of the process, although they have planned to withdraw as soon as the new phase of the process begins, which will no longer be administrative but jurisdictional.
The Legal Profession maintains that it should not remain in the procedure because it represents the State, whose administration was not harmed by the allegedly irregular expenses of the process, since it would have been the funds of the Catalan Administration. The Generalitat, however, does not accuse its 34 former senior officials and denies that the expenses they made or authorized during their tenure resulted in any damage to the coffers of the Catalan Administration. The Prosecutor’s Office will continue to prosecute and maintains that there were irregular expenses for which the Generalitat must be compensated.