Parliament confirms ousting of speaker Borràs after corruption sentence

Pro-independence politician to be replaced on June 9, deal between parties on candidate unclear

Laura Borràs greets supporters outside the Catalan parliament shortly after her conviction in her corruption trial was announced
Laura Borràs greets supporters outside the Catalan parliament shortly after her conviction in her corruption trial was announced / Natàlia Segura
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

June 1, 2023 07:25 PM

June 1, 2023 09:29 PM

The Catalan parliament has confirmed it is striping chamber speaker Laura Borràs of her seat after her corruption sentence.

On Thursday evening, the chamber decided after the Supreme Court denied the parliament bureau's appeal against the electoral board's move to remove her MP status.

A plenary session to vote on a new Catalan parliament speaker will be held next Friday, on June 9, as agreed by the parliament leadership on Thursday.

Only Aurora Madaula, second secretary of the parliament bureau, and part of Junts group, voted against the decision and from June 1, Laura Borràs has lost her seat in the chamber.

Choosing new speaker

According to the Parliament article 44.1 to choose the speaker of the chamber, MPs have to write on a piece of paper the name of the person they want to take the post, and the name with absolute majority is the one elected.

If no absolute majority is achieved, the legislation states that there will be a second vote with the two candidates that got most votes, and if after four votes, the tie continues, the MP from the group with more seats in the chamber will be elected the new speaker.

Pro-independence Esquerra Republicana has already said that they will give support to a candidate brought forward by Junts, as this is part of the deal both groups signed at the time of forming a coalition government, which broke in October 2022, when junts, the junior partner, decided to leave the cabinet.

Borràs, already stripped of seat

The electoral board decided to strip Laura Borràs of her MP seat in early May. With the decision, the president of the pro-independence party, Junts, will also lose her position as head of the chamber.

She has been ousted from her position in the chamber after being sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for helping a friend secure public contracts before becoming the parliament speaker.

Catalonia's High Court also barred Borràs from holding public office for 13 years after she was found guilty of forging official documents, being the initiator of the crime of commercial document forgery, and administrative breach of official duty for splitting contracts to avoid public tenders favoring her friend and IT specialist Isaías Herrero, who pled guilty after securing a deal with the prosecution.

Borràs was sentenced as she was the head of the Institute of Catalan Letters (ILC).

While the Catalan High Court sentenced her, judges also asked the Spanish government to partially pardon her to reduce her sentence by two and a half years, thereby avoiding prison time.

This legal mechanism is used when the court understands that it must impose a certain penalty, but at the same time, considers it excessive, in this case, because "it does not allow for sentence reduction procedures."

Borràs remains free as the sentence from March 30 has been appealed before the Supreme Court, where it will have to be upheld for her to be imprisoned. It could still take months for her to learn the outcome of the appeals process.

Not first ousting

Former far-left pro-independence CUP MP Pau Juvillà was stripped of his seat following the same procedure in January 2022, with the electoral board eventually ordering him to be removed from his post, as was the case with ex-Catalan president Quim Torra, of Borràs' party, Junts per Catalunya, in early 2020

During the text to the Catalan parliament, the electoral board cited the precedents set by the Juvillà and Torra cases as both politicians were stripped of their positions in Parliament before the Supreme Court handed down a decision on their appeals. 

It also cited article 6.2 b of the LOREG electoral law, which states that anyone who has been convicted of "rebellion, terrorism, crimes against the public administration or state institutions" and barred from office is ineligible for a public post even if their sentence can still be appealed. 

Splitting contracts to avoid tenders

Between March 2013 and February 2017, the ILC awarded, "through its director," 18 minor contracts relating to its website, for a total value of €330,000. 

Borràs "intervened" by "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 High Court judges. 

Of these contracts, six were awarded to Isaías Herrero for a total of €112,500 and one to Andreu Pujol for €20,050. Six contracts were also awarded to Xarxa Integral for €101,035 and three to Freelance for €54,437, two groups Isaías Herrero was a member of.

Although the contracts amounted to a total of €330,000, the ILC paid out €309,000 in the end. 

Shortly after having been appointed director of the ILC, Borràs introduced Isaías Herrero 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 of over €18,000 had to be put to tender. The court found that Borràs fraudulently split a larger payment into smaller contracts in order to be able to select who would be awarded the work and to avoid a public tender process.