Borràs sentenced to 4.5 years but could avoid prison with pardon request
Catalan high court finds suspended parliament speaker guilty of helping friend get public contracts
Laura Borràs has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for corruption during her time as the head of the Catalan Institute of Letters (ILC), the Catalan High Court announced on Thursday.
However, the court has also asked the Spanish government to partially pardon her to reduce her sentence by two and a half years, thereby avoiding prison time.
This legal mechanism is used when the court understands that it must impose a certain penalty, but at the same time, considers it excessive, in this case, because "it does not allow for sentence reduction procedures."
Spanish law dictates that in most cases, first-time offenders of financial crimes do not enter prison if their convictions are two years or under.
In any case, Borràs will not be imprisoned immediately the sentence will be appealed before the Supreme Court, where it will have to be upheld for her to spend time behind bars.
The suspended parliament speaker's sentence also disqualifies her from holding public office for 13 years and hands down a €36,000 fine.
The magistrates considered the Junts president guilty of forging official documents, being the initiator of the crime of commercial document forgery, and administrative breach of official duty for splitting contracts to avoid public tenders favoring her friend and IT specialist Isaías Herrero, who pled guilty after securing a deal with the prosecution.
According to them, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Borràs failed to comply with public contracting transparency regulations and instead "designed, decided, and executed" a contract to her liking.
The ruling also states that Borràs was "fully aware" that she was awarding a contract that lacked "the most elementary requirements" of public institutions.
The public prosecutor had asked for a six-year prison sentence, a 21-year disqualification, and a €144,000 fine for Borràs.
A two-year sentence was requested for Herrero and a 14-month sentence was requested for Pujol following their confessions.
Splitting contracts to avoid tenders
Between March 2013 and February 2017, the ILC awarded, "through its director," 18 minor contracts related to its website, for a total value of €330,000, in which Borràs "intervened", "proposing and awarding the contract, approving the expenditure, certifying the execution of the service, issuing the corresponding invoice and finally authorizing the payment," according to the judge's decree published on March 14, 2022.
Of these contracts, six were awarded to Isaías Herrero, for a total of €112,500, and one to Andreu Pujol, for €20,050. Six contracts were also awarded to Xarxa Integral for €101,035 and three to Freelance for €54,437, two groups Isaías H was a member of.
The contracts amounted to a total of €330,000, of which the ILC paid out €309,000 in the end.
Shortly after having been appointed director of the ILC, Borràs introduced Isaías Herrero to the staff as head of the website. The two exchanged emails about invoices and contracts, concluding that the same vendor could not file invoices for different items in the same year and that they, therefore, had to "knock on doors" to bill different names and to avoid exceeding the €18,000 maximum for minor contracts.
At the time, public contracts in Catalonia over €18,000 had to be put to tender. The court has found that Borràs fraudulently split a larger payment into smaller contracts in order to be able to choose who would be awarded the work, and to avoid a public tender process.
'We created fake quotes'
Isaías Herrero, a friend of suspended parliament speaker Laura Borràs, confessed to splitting contracts to avoid public tenders during the trial, thus incriminating the politician.
An IT expert, he has been negotiating a deal with the public attorney to incriminate himself and the politician to avoid imprisonment as prosecutors had requested a six-year sentence and €72,000 fine for him.
Although he admitted to making fake contracts for the Catalan Institute of Letters under Borràs' orders, the suspended parliament speaker denied all charges.
During his testimony, Herrero explained that contracts did not surpass €18,000 as this way they would not need to be put to a public tender according to the legislation at the time. They would have to split the required work into different parts to do it.