High Court sets dates for Laura Borràs's corruption trial
Suspended parliament speaker to be tried February 10 to March 1 next year
Laura Borràs, party president of Junts per Catalunya and suspended speaker of the Catalan parliament, will be tried in the Catalan High Court (TSJC) on corruption charges between February 10 and March 1 next year.
Magistrates set the date for the proceedings on Friday.
Borràs, who was suspended as parliament speaker in late July, faces corruption charges for allegedly awarding irregular contracts during her time as director of the Institute of Catalan Letters (ILC), a public body in charge of promoting Catalan literature.
The politician could be charged with up to six years in prison, be barred from office for 21 years, and be fined €144,000, as per the public prosecutor’s office request, which was made public in July.
The president of Junts per Catalunya defended her innocence as she "awaits a non-guilty verdict" after a trial that has been "irregular" since the start of the process, she said in a video shared with the Catalan News Agency (ACN).
The TSJC indicted her on June 29 for supposedly favoring a friend, an IT professional, in what should have been put to a public tender, for which she is accused of an administrative breach of official duty, administrative fraud, falsification of a commercial document, and misuse of public funds.
The prosecutor’s office, however, did not accuse Borràs of misuse of public funds, as there are no documents certifying that the suspended Parliament speaker paid extra for the requested works.
The public prosecutor's office has also requested that the IT professional spend the same time as Borràs behind bars and barred from office, but has only asked that he pay a €72,000 fine.
For a third person who allegedly was aware of the supposed irregularities and who agreed to issue invoices in his name on their behalf, the public prosecutor has requested a 3-year sentence, 10-year disqualification, and €30,000 fine.
Accused of 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.
Of these contracts, six were awarded to Isaías H., for a total of €112,500, and one to Andreu P.M., for €20,050. Both men are also charged. 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 have being appointed director of the ILC, Borràs introduced Isaías H. 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 alleges 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.