Misuse of public funds accusations against Catalan leaders up to €1.9M
Court elevates the alleged spending despite Spanish treasury minister claiming “not a single euro” was used
The Spanish court investigating Catalan leaders for misuse of public funds related to the independence referendum has increased the alleged total spending from €1.6 to €1.9 million, following new reports by the Guardia Civil police.
The move comes a day after Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena requested that Spain’s treasury minister, Cristobal Montoro, clarify whether the vote was publicly funded or not. Montoro, in control of Catalan finances since September, recently said that “not a single euro” was used to pay for the referendum, thus apparently contravening Llarena’s investigation.
"I don't know how they paid for the October 1 ballot boxes manufactured in China. But I do know it was not with public funds," said Montoro in an interview with the Spanish 'El Mundo' newspaper published on Monday.
Spending newly included in the accusation incorporates €61,879 allegedly paid by the Catalan government to the pro-independence Òmnium Cultural organization for making and distributing posters urging people to vote in the referendum. Police also accused pro-independence parties of using public funds to rent the Catalan National Theatre (TNC) on July 4, the day when the logistics for the October 1 vote were disclosed in a major event.
Roberto Bermúdez de Castro, the official controlling the Catalan government since Madrid suspended its self-rule last October, backed Montoro on Thursday, underscoring strict control regards Catalan finances.
Yet, he opened the door to less obvious ways in which pro-independence leaders could have misused public funds, such as allowing public buildings to be used as polling stations on referendum day, and the use of electricity.
In total, 14 officials in Catalonia are being prosecuted for allegedly using public money to pay for the October 1 vote, deemed illegal by Spanish courts, among other accusations. Seven of them are currently held behind bars.
Courts in Germany, Scotland and Belgium are considering European Arrest Warrants issued by the Supreme Court against Puigdemont and the ministers who are seeking refuge from the Spanish judiciary abroad.
The Schleswig-Holstein court in Germany recently rejected extraditing deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on charges of rebellion, a criminal offence which entails the use of violence and which carries prison sentences of up to 30 years. The only remaining crime is that of misuse of public funds.