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Former Catalan Minister from Left-Wing Independence Party ERC condemned for tobacco smuggling

Jordi Ausàs, who was Catalan Minister for Governance and Administration between March 2008 and December 2010, was condemned to 4 years in jail and to pay a €195,000 fine for tobacco trafficking and not paying the corresponding taxes. The Lleida Province's High Court stated on Thursday afternoon that Ausàs had participated in an organised criminal band that was smuggling tobacco through the border between Andorra and Spain since the summer of 2010, when he was in office. Back in 2012, when Ausàs was formally accused, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) temporarily suspended his party membership until the situation was made clear. The ERC have not issued any official statement at the time of writing this article and Ausàs’ lawyers have not confirmed whether he will appeal the Court's decision.

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19 June 2014 08:06 PM

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ACN

Lleida (ACN).- Jordi Ausàs, who was Catalan Minister for Governance and Administration between March 2008 and December 2010, was condemned to 4 years in jail and to pay a €195,000 fine for tobacco trafficking and not paying the corresponding taxes. The Lleida Province's High Court stated on Thursday afternoon that Ausàs had participated in an organised criminal band that was smuggling tobacco through the border between Andorra and Spain since the summer of 2010, while he was in office. Back in 2012, when Ausàs was formally accused, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) temporarily suspended his party membership until the situation was made clear. The ERC have not issued any official statement at the time of writing this article and Ausàs’ lawyers have not yet confirmed whether he will appeal the Court's decision. The former Minister had plead innocent and only answered the questions from his lawyers. Before sitting in the Catalan Government, the ERC politician had been Mayor of La Seu d'Urgell between 2003 and 2008, a town in the Catalan Pyrenees near the border of Andorra. Decades and centuries ago, the presence of smugglers was common in the Pyrenees and particularly near the Andorran border. Nowadays, as part European Union and a common market without borders, this felony is mostly eradicated.


Lleida's Provincial High Court condemned Jordi Ausàs to spend 4 years in jail and to pay a fine of €195,000 for having smuggled tobacco as part of an organised criminal band since the summer of 2010. Since March 2008 and until December 2010, Ausàs was the Catalan Minister in charge of public employees and local government. He was accused together with 12 other people, 5 of which were not found guilty. The former ERC politician and 7 other people have been condemned for the same crime to between 3 and 5 years in prison. In fact, the most severe sentence was for a member of the Spanish Gendarmerie (Guardia Civil) who was in the border control between Andorra and Spain and was in charge of opening the warehouse in which the tobacco was stored. He has been condemned to 5 years in prison and a €390,000 fine. 

The trial against Ausàs started on the 20th of May, just 5 days before the European elections, which were held in Spain on the 25th May and were won by the ERC in Catalonia. This party had expelled Ausàs from its ranks 2 years ago, when he was formally accused. The Court considers it has been proved that the politician was using his personal car and his wife's to load the tobacco and carry it to his own house. There, he was splitting the tobacco packs in smaller boxes without any label on them and then transporting them to Barcelona, normally at early morning. Once in the Catalan capital, the tobacco was distributed and sold. With this operation, the criminal band was avoiding paying the corresponding taxes, besides making money with the price difference.

Police confiscated a total of €50,000 in tobacco during the operation against the band. In Ausàs' house they found an amount slightly less than €15,000, which is the legal limit between an administrative fault and a felony. In addition, police found €25,800 in cash in the former politician's house. During the trial he said that most of the money was the savings from his mother-in-law, as well as his wife's and his own. In fact, during the entire trial, Ausàs strongly denied all the accusations.

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  • Jordi Ausàs, with red glasses, during the trial (by ACN)

  • Jordi Ausàs, with red glasses, during the trial (by ACN)