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Jordi Pujol's fiscal fraud becomes a threat for self-determination process

Catalan politics and society are shocked after Jordi Pujol, President of the Catalan Government between 1980 and 2003, confessed on Friday evening that his family had €4 million in Andorra for 35 years which had never been declared to the tax authorities. Madrid-based media and politicians have immediately linked Pujol's scandal to Catalonia's self-determination with the aim to delegitimise the process since the retired politician had been the historical leader of the conservative Catalan nationalists. Parties supporting self-determination have distanced themselves from Pujol, including CDC, the Liberal party he founded in 1974 during Franco's dictatorship that now runs the Catalan Government. It is expected that Jordi Pujol (84) will resign as CDC's Founding President in the next few hours. His confession comes after his family and particularly two of his sons have been targeted by the media and judicial investigations for corruption since 2012.

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28 July 2014 09:35 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Catalan politics and society are shocked after Jordi Pujol, who was President of the Catalan Government between 1980 and 2003 and a symbol for conservative Catalan nationalists, confessed on Friday evening that his family had €4 million in an Andorran bank account which had not been declared to the tax authorities in almost 35 years. Madrid-based media and politicians have immediately linked Pujol's scandal to Catalonia's self-determination process with the aim to delegitimise it since the retired politician had been the historical leader of moderate Catalan nationalism and the centre-right CiU coalition. During the weekend and on Monday, parties supporting self-determination have distanced themselves from Pujol, including prominent members of the Catalan Government and CDC, the Liberal party he founded in 1974 within the clandestine resistance against Franco's dictatorship and that later formed the CiU coalition together with the Christian-Democrat UDC. Now, the CiU is running the Catalan Government since 2010 and is leading the support for the self-determination vote, scheduled for the 9th of November. It is expected that Jordi Pujol, aged 84, will resign from his post as CDC's Founding President in the next few hours after leaders of the party openly asked for this. In addition, left-wing parties are asking to cancel his pension and the budget to run his office as former Catalan President. In his Friday confession, Jordi Pujol took responsibility for all the actions and promised full cooperation with the tax authorities and, eventually, the justice system. In addition, he tried to take the blame away from his sons, who have been targeted by media and judicial investigations for corruption since 2012. One of them, Oriol Pujol, became the Secretary General of CDC and resigned from all his posts on the 15th of July of this year, after having already delegated his tasks in March 2013. Oriol Pujol has been indicted by the judge for influence peddling and bribery.


Jordi Pujol's confession comes after his family and particularly two of his sons are being investigated by the media and judges for alleged fiscal felonies. Despite the investigations involving his two sons (Oriol Pujol and Jordi Pujol Ferrussola), many people believed that Jordi Pujol senior was innocent, as he defended hard work as a value as well as being at the service of the community for the last four decades: in the opposition against Franco, in the Transition, in his 23 years as Catalan President and in his politically active retirement of the last 10 years. Therefore, besides the scandal surrounding his family, Pujol's confession arrived like a slap in the face for many Catalans, particularly in such a delicate political moment regarding the relations with the Spain and the economic crisis (with so many people struggling to face their fiscal responsibilities with tax authorities and banks).

Jordi Pujol has been crucial in Catalonia's and Spain's recent history

In fact, considering Pujol's importance in Catalonia's and Spain's recent history and his long and charismatic leadership, for many people he was a symbol, although many others criticised his policies and way of handling things in an egocentric style. As President but also in his early years as a businessman and in politics, he tried to build state structures for Catalonia, and put a great emphasis on guaranteeing the knowledge of Catalan language among all the inhabitants as well, after years of cultural persecution during Franco's dictatorship. In addition, he made great emphasis to shape Catalonia is a welcoming land for new-comers, stating that "everybody living and working in Catalonia is a Catalan", no matter where they were born.

However, Pujol also played a great role at a Spanish level. During his entire life, Jordi Pujol tried to find a better accommodation for Catalonia within Spain and he has been one of the main politicians to get to understand today's Catalonia and Spain. He played a crucial role during the democratic Transition, the negotiation of the 1978 Constitution and the first years of democracy, as well as in ensuring Spain's modernisation and stability in the 1980s and 1990s. In those last years, he gave parliamentary support to the governments of both the Socialist Felipe González (1993-1996) and José María Aznar (1996-2000), which made him less popular in Catalonia. In 2001 he appointed the current Catalan President Artur Mas as his successor and in 2003 he did not run in the elections and stepped down from power. Then he retired from the very first line of politics, although he kept a high and public profile, participating in manifold events throughout Catalonia and assisting at CDC and CiU's main political meetings.

Pujol supported a better accommodation within Spain until very recently

In his years as the Catalan President and as the leader of the CiU, due to his charisma and the constant negotiations to gain a few more self-rule powers for Catalonia, Pujol counteracted support for independence. Since the Constitutional Court's sentence from 2010 against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy that re-interprets this rule, approved via a binding referendum in 2006 and the Constitution from 1978, Pujol – like a great part of the Catalan society – started to support independence. He argued that the better accommodation he had always been fighting for would be never possible, while Spain's attacks against Catalonia's self-rule would persist, and therefore the only viable solution to keep Catalonia's culture, language and identity alive was independence from Spain.

Pujol stated he did not have time to regularize the situation in 35 years

On Friday evening, Jordi Pujol issued a press release in which he said he wanted to come clear about the amount of money kept in a bank in Andorra, hidden from the knowledge of the tax authorities. The €4 million were property of his wife and sons. They came from the inheritance of Jordi Pujol's father, Florenci Pujol, in 1980, who directly lent the money to his daughter-in-law and grandchildren since he disagreed about his son's political involvement and feared potential problems if democracy did not work out in Spain. On Friday's press release, Pujol stated that, since he was about to become the Catalan President, he refused to manage his children's money, who at the time were still minors. He put a person he trusted in charge of the money and he added that he refused to know anything about it. When the children became adults, one of them took care of the money. Since 1980, Pujol stated that they never found a good moment to regularise the amount with the tax authorities and had not been able to benefit from the 3 fiscal amnesties launched by the Spanish Government in these 3 decades. Now, since the media and judicial pressure on Pujol's sons is higher, the former Catalan President stated he wanted to clarify all of this and take the blame for "a bad decision" he made in the past.

Parties supporting self-determination distance themselves from Pujol

All the political parties have been extremely critical of Jordi Pujol's confession: those supporting self-determination who have distanced themselves from him, and those against self-determination who have used the case to attack the process. In fact, many media outlets from Madrid have used the case to take legitimacy away from the self-determination claims shared by a wide majority of the Catalan society, and not only by Jordi Pujol and the party he founded. The People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government  shared parliamentary stability with Pujol between 1996 and 2000, stated that "justice has to act". Furthermore, they hope that a parliamentary investigation committee will be launched to know the "all of the truth".

Nevertheless, CDC and the entire CiU have also distanced themselves from their former leader, who is still holding the position of Founding President. Josep Rull, who will become Artur Mas' 'number two' within the CiU, asked Pujol to think about his future within the organisation and on Monday he opened the door for his retirement. In fact, the Spokesperson for the Catalan Government (run by the CiU) and Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, who is also one of CDC´s main figures, confirmed that they are expecting important news regarding Pujol and the party "within the next few hours". Furthermore, he added that the Government will decide on Tuesday which measures are adopted regarding Pujol.

On Friday, the current Catalan President and CiU's leader, Artur Mas, stated that Pujol's confession did not affect the Government nor the party. In addition, he emphasised that the former President had done  a few "wrong" things. On Monday, the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, who had also been Minister in a Cabinet led by Pujol a decade ago, said he was "astonished" and "hit" by the confession. The Catalan Minister for Public Transport and Works, Santi Vila, said that Pujol's behaviour is "unacceptable" and he added it is particularly "shocking" because of "his moralising" speeches.

The left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, which shares a parliamentary stability agreement with the CiU, demanded that the Catalan Government take away all the benefits that Pujol has as former Catalan President, such as a pension (which depends on the years in office), a budget to run a small office, an official car and a small security team. The ERC added that Pujol's behaviour was "despicable". The Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA, which also supports self-determination, also asked to take Pujol's benefits away immediately, as well as his protocol distinctions.

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  • Jordi Pujol in a press conference a few months ago (by ACN)

  • Jordi Pujol in a press conference a few months ago (by ACN)