Corruption sentence hits Catalonia’s dominant nationalist party

CDC received bribes in exchange for public contracts for 10 years from 1999, court finds

The Palau de la Música Catalana concert venue in Barcelona, which was used as a front for false invoicing in a scam involving the party. Photograph: JTB/UIG via Getty Images

The Palau de la Música Catalana concert venue in Barcelona, which was used as a front for false invoicing in a scam involving the party. Photograph: JTB/UIG via Getty Images

 

The nationalist party that has governed Catalonia for most of Spain’s modern democratic era has been found guilty of receiving millions of euro in bribes and its former treasurer has been handed a four-year jail sentence.

A court in Barcelona ruled on Monday that Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) had received €6.6 million in illegal commissions from building firm Ferrovial between 1999 and 2009, in exchange for lucrative public works contracts. The scheme was channelled through the Palau de la Música Catalana concert venue, which was used as a front for false invoicing.

In the widely anticipated verdict and sentence, former CDC treasurer Daniel Osàcar received a jail term of four years and five months and was fined €3.7 million.

Fèlix Millet, the former director of the Palau, was jailed for just under 10 years and fined €4.1 million and his deputy, Jordi Montull, received a 7½-year sentence and was fined €2.9 million. Millet and Montull were the individuals who benefited most from the scam, controlling the Palau’s funds.

The prosecutor in the case, Emilio Sánchez Ulled, had charged that “the Palau was the [CDC’s] money pipeline” during the years that the fraud had been in place and an audit by Deloitte had found that a total of €35 million went missing from the building’s accounts.

Montull’s daughter, Gemma, was also given a jail sentence, as were eight other people. Two Ferrovial executives were absolved, due to the lapse in time since the crimes were alleged to have been committed, along with two other defendants.

Despite a barrage of other corruption cases across Spain in recent years, the Palau scandal has drawn enormous attention since it was first unveiled in 2009, due both to the massive amounts of money involved and its political repercussions.

Dominant force

After the introduction of autonomous rule in Catalonia, CDC immediately became the region’s dominant political force. Under its founder and leader Jordi Pujol, and then his protege Artur Mas, who oversaw its embrace of secessionism, it governed for all but seven years between 1980 and 2015. However, the Palau case and Mr Pujol’s own 2014 admission that he had hidden a fortune in tax havens tainted CDC’s image and by extension the Catalan independence drive it was leading.

In a bid to shake off such scandals, CDC changed its name in 2016 to the Catalan Democratic Party. Last week Mr Mas, who was a close ally of former party treasurer Daniel Osàcar, stepped down as party president.

The party rebranded yet again for last month’s Catalan election, running as Together for Catalonia and coming second, giving it yet another chance to form a government, although its candidate, Carles Puigdemont, is in exile in Brussels.

On Monday Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said that direct rule, introduced in Catalonia in October, would remain in place if Mr Puigdemont attempts to be invested as regional president from Belgium.