Parliament speaker sent to trial for alleged irregular contracts
Esquerra, CUP, and Socialists will call for Laura Borràs' suspension
Catalan parliament speaker Laura Borràs will go on trial for administrative fraud and falsification of a commercial document, as announced by the Catalan High Court on Tuesday.
The Junts per Catalunya pro-independence politician is accused of supposedly favoring a friend, an IT professional, in a contract that should have been put to a public tender while she was at the head of the Catalan Institute of Letters, for which the public prosecutor has requested 6 years behind bars and a 21-year disqualification from public office.
Will Borràs step down?
The parliament bureau will now have to decide whether to suspend Borràs from her post as parliament speaker as Article 25.4 of the Parliament's own regulations state that MPs who are tried for crimes relating to corruption should be barred.
It seems poised to do just this as Esquerra, CUP, and the Socialists are set to call for her suspension during the parliament bureau meeting scheduled for this Thursday.
Borràs, who fiercely denies all accusations, has faced calls to step down from other opposition groups too, with both far-right Vox and anti-austerity En Comú Podem reacting to the news by urging her to resign.
"We cannot have a substitute for sixth months," En Comú Podem's David Cid said, referring to the time the trial may last.
Accused of splitting contracts to avoid tenders
Borràs was appointed director of the Institute of Catalan Letters (ILC), a public body in charge of promoting Catalan literature, on January 15, 2013.
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.