Catalonia - Corruption
The Catalonia Anti-Fraud Office, a regional anticorruption agency specialised in prevention and investigation of corruption and fraud is the only one of its kind in Spain. Aiming to prevent and investigate misuse of public funds, it is also entrusted with guiding other entities.
The explosion of corruption at all levels appeared now that democracy is no longer a novelty and when the unpopular corrupt practices of the Franco dictatorship are now fading in the memory. In fact, it almost seemed as if certain officials have been waiting for this to happen before going back to the bad habits of making money from public construction projects in particular.
at least 82.3% of Catalans believe that there is quite a lot or a lot of corruption in Catalonia, nearly 22% more than just four years ago and 3% more than in 2012. The figure is one of the main findings of the telephone survey presented 09 December 2014 by the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia, conducted on 800 people between November 10 and 18 and confirming the growing distrust towards the political classes. In fact, 53.3% believe that this practice had even increased in recent years, with only 4% believing it had decreased. 89% believe corruption to be a serious problem, 10% more than in 2010, but 4% less than two years ago.
On January 3, 2005, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia passed a nine-year prison sentence on former judge Estevill. He was also fined 1.8 million Euro after being convicted on bribery, extortion and breach of legal duty charges. He was implicated in the biggest corruption scandal unveiled in the Spanish judicial system in twenty-five years. Estevill, a former judge in Barcelona and one-time member of the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial), was found to have accepted bribes and helped Catalan lawyer Joan Piqué Vidal run extortion activities between 1990 and 1994. Piqué Vidal was also sentenced to seven years imprisonment and fined 900,000 Euros. According to the court ruling, Estevill and Piqué Vidal abused their positions by demanding bribes from business people under investigation for or charged with economic crimes. As a result of this, both Estevill and Piqué Vidal accumulated hundreds of thousands of euros in bribes over the four-year period. Several other people found guilty of participating in the scam, including Estevill’s son, were fined and sentenced to up to one year in prison. Estevill had previously been disqualified from office.
On 14 March 2005 the European Union said it would not grant more cash help for Spain until after the investigation into alleged corruption in the former regional authority in Catalonia. Ana Paula Laissey, spokeswoman for the EU's regional affairs office, said: "For the moment, we are not going to take any decision before we have the results of this internal investigation."
The move followed allegations by the present Catalan regional prime minister, Pasqual Maragall, that the former government, led by the right-of-centre CiU, took cuts of three percent from every public contract awarded during its 20 years in power. Maragall was forced to retract the allegations, but an inquiry began to investigate if the former Catalan authority was guilty of graft. After Maragall's allegations, a small businessman, Juan Antonio Salguero, owner of a Catalan construction, firm told public prosecutors he paid 20 percent "commissions" to the Barcelona public housing firm Adigsa for 18 projects carried out in the city in recent years. And a report by an independent auditor said the former authority had not followed European Union regulations.
In 2009 the director of the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Fèlix Millet was accused of systematically raiding the coffers of this public body and confessed to embezzling €3.3 million. In 2012 he was placed on bail and the prosecutor sought six years imprisonment as well as massive fines.
In March 2017, one of the biggest corruption scandals affecting former governing party ‘Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya’ (CDC) which ruled in Catalonia in coalition with Christian Democrat Unió for more than 20 years, was put on trial. The so-called ‘Palau case’ investeigates whether CDC received €5.1 million from the construction company Ferrovial through donations made to Barcelona’s Palau de la Música concert hall. The judge, Josep Maria Pijuan, believes the money was allegedly given in exchange for the allocation of public work contracts. Fèlix Millet and Jordi Montull, the main managers of Palau de la Música at that time, have been the main focus of attention during the investigation, since there was evidence they might have stolen €26 million from the cultural organisation for their personal profit.
Ryan T. Judd noted in 2014 that "In Spain, where Catalonia's separatist movement had gathered unprecedented strength in recent years, international rule of law and anti-corruption organizations have noted particular vulnerabilities to corruption in the current structure of the Spanish government.... it is likely that the Catalan people's lack of trust in their politicians and government institutions would represent a critical issue for a newly independent Catalonia.... Catalonia's regional government already had a substantial framework of anti-corruption laws and institutions in place, including the AntiFraud Office, which has been the leading body for anti-corruption efforts in Spain since 2008.197 While corruption would certainly be a significant obstacle for a newly independent Catalonia, it would not be an insurmountable one if Catalan leaders were able to convince the public that they are moving toward the eradication of corruption from their government institutions and the renewal of political integrity."
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