Ex PP officials carried out ‘clandestine’ operation to discredit Catalan politicians, say reports
Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia reveals conversations between former police officers and People’s Party figures
Some former officials of the Spanish government had planned to discredit Catalan pro-independence politicians in the months leading up to the 2017 independence referendum, as revealed by Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia.
In February 2017, María Dolores de Cospedal, then the Spanish minister of defense, is said to have orchestrated an ‘Operation Catalonia’ in which police officers sought compromising information on pro-independence figures.
The original 'Operation Catalonia' referred to a conspiracy scandal of some key officials in the Spanish administration to plot and find information to discredit pro-independence leaders in the years that followed the beginning of the independence push in 2012.
The case came to light when a conversation held in 2014 between the then head of Catalonia's anti-fraud office, Daniel de Alfonso, and the then Spanish interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, was leaked in 2016 – they were both seemingly plotting against the independence camp. De Alfonso was sacked from his post and Fernández Díaz was no longer minister by the end of the year.
In July 2016, a former police official, José Manuel Villarejo, admitted that a secret plot involving several elements of the Spanish administration, including himself, existed from 2012.
Villarejo, in provisional jail since 2017, was part of the team of police officers that were tasked with finding information to damage the reputations of Catalan leaders, and is being investigated by anti-corruption prosecutors.
A judge has now opened a legal case looking into potential wrongdoing of some of the former PP officials as part of the ‘Operation Kitchen.’ Cospedal, the ex Spanish defense minister, and Jorge Fernández Díaz are being investigated in the case.
Specifically, the case is looking at some attempts of the Spanish interior ministry to neutralize the former treasurer of the right-wing PP, Luis Bárcenas, who was convicted of corruption in 2018 along with the political force as part of the ‘Gürtel case’, and to hide information from anti-corruption authorities.
‘Operation Kitchen’ was the name of the attempts of PP officials to get the incriminating evidence out of the hands of Bárcenas by any means necessary.
The ‘Gürtel case’ revealed corruption and vast irregularities in the financing of the right-wing PP and which ultimately led to the downfall of the former Spanish president Mariano Rajoy with a vote of no confidence in 2018.