Trackers placed in Puigdemont's cars during meetings in Brussels hotel
"Sophisticated" devices were prepared by experts in town close to former president's Waterloo residence, say investigation sources
Two devices used to track the movements of Carles Puigdemont were placed in cars used by the former president during his first few months in exile while he was holding a series of meetings in the Hotel Husa President Park in Brussels.
That is according to sources close to the investigation by the Belgian police into allegations that a Spanish prosecutor may have been involved in an unofficial operation to spy on the former president, reported by the Catalan News Agency (ACN) on Tuesday.
The sources told ACN that the first device was placed in a Renault Espace during the morning of February 2, 2018, while the car was parked in the hotel's parking lot. The second device was installed two days later in the same establishment.
Belgian experts say the "sophisticated" devices were prepared to high technical standards with "high-quality materials and by experts," probably, the investigation indicates, in the town of Arquennes, 20 minutes from Puigdemont's Waterloo residence.
Police identify three sites in Brussels' area
The investigation links three places with the alleged spying operation. The first was a Brussels hotel where one SIM card linked to the devices made a call, and where Spanish prosecutor Carlos Bautista Samaniego was staying, as reported by ACN on Tuesday.
The other two places are the President Park hotel, where the devices were thought to have been placed in the vehicles, and an unconfirmed site in the Arquennes area, where the devices are thought to have been prepared by expert technicians.
The narrowing down of the investigation to these specific places has allowed Belgian police to determine that the SIM cards -all with British numbers- were active at different moments in the days leading up to them being placed in the vehicles.
Belgian police think the first tracker was placed in the car while parked at the hotel because it would have been impossible to install the device while the car was stopped at a traffic light, or while it was in the garage at Puigdemont's house, where the vehicle was guarded.
While Puigdemont moved around Brussels unaware that his car was bugged, the second device was being prepared in Arquennes, and then well-hidden inside the engine of a Renault Laguna, almost certainly when it was parked in the same hotel.
Before the devices were discovered on February 7 and 8, Belgian police managed to establish that from the time they were placed in the cars, Puigdemont's movements were tracked from a distance.
Belgian judge dismisses further investigation
However, despite the exhaustive investigation by the Belgian police, the judge overseeing the case in Belgium refused the police permission to look into how the devices were bought, alleging the cost that such an investigation would involve.
The judge also shut down investigation into the presence of Carlos Bautista Samaniego at the Brussels hotel linked to the devices. On Tuesday, the prosecutor denied involvement in the events and said he was in the Belgium capital for a meeting on antiterrorism.
"No case" to investigate
Meritxell Batet, the Socialists' top candidate in Catalonia for the upcoming general election, says that there's "no case" to investigate regarding the tracking devices found spying on Puigdemont.
Batet defended the National Court prosecutor, arguing that the explanations for the devices from Carlos Bautista's side are "more than enough."
"From everything I have read, the explanations are very clear," the Socialist candidate said.