Judge rejects amnesty for Carles Puigdemont in Russian plot case

Former Catalan president accused of treason, embezzlement and criminal organization

Former Catalan presidents Carles Puigdemont and Artur Mas in 2017
Former Catalan presidents Carles Puigdemont and Artur Mas in 2017 / Blanca Blay
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Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

July 9, 2024 12:05 PM

July 9, 2024 12:47 PM

The judge in the Volhov case, investigating an alleged Russian plot to support Catalan independence, has refused to grant amnesty to the accused, including former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

Although a Barcelona court ordered in May that the case be shelved because it had been extended without justification, the judge opened a separate part of the case in June, indicting Puigdemont and another former president, Artur Mas. 

Because Puigdemont holds public office as an MP, the judge has now referred the case to the Supreme Court, asking it to take over the investigation for crimes of treason, embezzlement and criminal organization.

"Russia's efforts were aimed at achieving a voluntary separation from the European Union. Catalan politicians used their friendship with Russia to prevent economic and social chaos," the judge says.

A controversial judge

The judge of the case, Joaquín Aguirre, has caused controversy recently.

Earlier this month, Diario RED published leaked audio recordings of him bragging about being the judge who stopped the amnesty law from being approved.

The next day, Puigdemont filed a complaint against Aguirre in Catalonia's High Court, accusing him of prevarication and embezzlement. 

"The judge is instrumentalizing the creation of separate judicial parts with an illegal and unlawful purpose, which is to avoid complying with the decisions dictated by the higher courts," the complaint read. 

Alleged Russian plot 

The Volhov case links former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to an alleged Russian plot to support Catalan independence.

The judge said that after reviewing documents, he found data confirming the "close personal relationships" between some people close to Puigdemont and people of Russian, German and Italian nationality, some of whom had links to Russian intelligence services

Among those close to Puigdemont under investigation are his office manager Josep Lluís Alay, businessman Víctor Terradellas and computer specialist Jaume Cabaní.   

The court document mentions two meetings between Terradellas and Russian individuals, one of them in the Catalan government headquarters with the presence of Carles Puigdemont, just before the unilateral declaration of independence in 2017.  

The judge says that he also received an anonymous letter at the court, containing newspaper clippings compiled by an international journalistic investigation team, confirming this meeting.

This documentation also refers to an offer of several thousand soldiers and millions of dollars in exchange for an independent Catalonia that would become a cryptocurrency haven

The court decision also establishes that Alay had a series of conversations with Carles Puigdemont's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, through messages that "unequivocally reveal his contacts with high-ranking Kremlin officials".

The judge argues that it is necessary to extend the investigation due to the "complexity of the case," because there are tens of thousands of documents and there is still much to review.