The 'number 3' of the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) is indicted for influence peddling
The Supreme Court of Catalonia (TSJC) has indicted Oriol Pujol, who is the ‘number three’ of the CiU – who run the Catalan Government – over a case of influence peddling regarding an irregular public tender for technical vehicle inspection garages. After his indictment was announced, Pujol “delegated” his party and parliamentary roles as Secretary General of CDC – the Liberal and largest force within the two-party coalition CiU – and as Chairman of the CiU group in the Catalan Parliament. However, Pujol explained that he would not resign as an MP, as it would be “out of proportion”. The Catalan politician insisted that he was innocent and he hoped justice would act quickly. The opposition has displayed a divided reaction: some parties have left it to the CiU to decide whether Pujol’s decision was enough while others heavily criticised him continuing as an MP.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Catalonia (TSJC) announced the indictment of Oriol Pujol Ferrusola, who is the \u2018number three\u2019 of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), which runs the Catalan Government. The TSJC considered there to be \u201Crational indications\u201D to believe that Pujol could have allegedly \u201Cused his political weight\u201D in an influence peddling case regarding the irregular public tender for the allocation of licenses to technical vehicle inspection garages in Catalonia \u201Cwith the objective of obtaining an economic profit\u201D. After his indictment was made public, Pujol held a press conference and announced that he was \u201Cdelegating\u201D his party and parliamentary roles as Secretary General of the CDC \u2013 the Liberal and largest force within the two-party coalition CiU \u2013 and as Chairman of the CiU group in the Catalan Parliament. However, he explained that he would not resign as an MP, as it would be \u201Cout of proportion\u201D because being \u201Cindicted is not synonymous with being guilty\u201D and he insisted he is innocent. According to him, quitting the Parliament would be an \u201Cirreversible\u201D decision, as he would not be able to retake his seat once it has been proved he is innocent. The CiU leadership, including the President of the Catalan Government and party leader, Artur Mas, approved Pujol\u2019s decision. In addition, Pujol \u2013 who is the son of the former President of the Catalan Government and historical leader of Catalan nationalism Jordi Pujol \u2013 emphasised that he is temporarily stepping down from frontline politics because he does not want to hurt Catalonia\u2019s self-determination process and the people\u2019s perception of politics. He stated that he was not \u201Chiding behind the flag\u201D. However, he acknowledged that Spanish nationalism is holding \u201Ca dirty war\u201D against the Catalan self-determination process and its main actors, but he refused to link these attacks to his personal case. The opposition parties displayed a divided reaction on Pujol\u2019s indictment and the decision to \u201Cdelegate\u201D his main functions but continue to be an MP. Some parties have respected the decision and have left it to the CiU to decide whether abandoning all his leadership positions apart from continuing as a regular MP was enough. However, other have demanded Pujol resigns from absolutely all positions of public office and have also criticised that he was \u201Cdelegating\u201D his responsibilities but not \u201Cresigning\u201D.
The indictment of Oriol Pujol is a political earthquake in Catalonia because he is one of the main leaders of the governing party and the political force leading the Catalan self-determination process. However, the news was somewhat expected since the public prosecutor asked for it in early February. Furthermore, during the last year, Oriol Pujol\u2019s name has appeared in the press related to different corruption scandals, which are currently under investigation although no official accusations have been filed. The indictment announced on Tuesday does not mean that Pujol is guilty, or that a trial against him will be held. The indictment means the judge investigating the case believes that there are substantial indications suggesting Pujol might have committed a felony and has therefore asked him to testify in the presence of a lawyer. Later on, the judge will decide whether he will formally accuse Pujol of influence peddling or not.
The influence peddling suspicions
The current investigation derives from the case known as \u2018Campeón\u2019, whose centre of gravity is in Galicia. The name of the former Spanish Transport Minister and \u2018number 2\u2019 of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), José Blanco, is related to the \u2018Campeón\u2019 case and is currently under investigation by the justice. The Catalan branch of the case appeared in the press a year ago when five notorious people were arrested, two politicians and three businessmen: the \u2018number two\u2019 of Barcelona\u2019s Provincial Council, Josep Tous; the Catalan Government\u2019s Deputy Director of Industrial Safety, Isidre Maselles; the former General Director of Menta ITV, Ricard Puignou; the former CEO of Applus, Sergi Pastor; and Sergi Alsina, a partner in Alta Partners.
The TSJC describes a \u201Cseries of actions\u201D in which Oriol Pujol allegedly would have participated. According to the court\u2019s indictment released on Tuesday, Pujol would have influenced the Catalan Government\u2019s Deputy Minister for Business and Employment to appoint Josep Tous as mediator in the conflict of the technical vehicle inspection garages, \u201Cwhile Tous was also working in the service and defending particular interests\u201D of the two other indicted businessmen, Ricard Puignou and Sergi Alsina. In addition, the court suspects that Pujol would have managed to make Isidre Masalles be appointed as the Catalan Government\u2019s Deputy Director for Industrial Safety, \u201Cwho was one of the administrative authorities who had to decide on the resolution of the technical vehicle inspection garages licenses following the plan proposed by Tous\u201D. On top of this, the court stated that Pujol might have \u201Ccooperated\u201D with Alsina, Puignou and Tous in having approved the new territorial plan of technical vehicle inspection garages, which was being designed by Tous. The plan \u201Cwas to significantly increase the number of garages in order to benefit all the participants\u201D and it denied a previously-allocated license to another company. Finally, the court also suspects that Pujol would have participated in creating a company to benefit from the garage network. \u201CFollowing Tous\u2019 plan\u201D, the new company would have allocated several packs of licenses, with \u201Cthe support\u201D of Pujol, Alsina and Puignou. Pujol fully denies all these suspicions.
The Catalan Government respects Pujol\u2019s decision
The political reactions have been considerable. The Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, also a member of the CiU, Francesc Homs, defended Pujol\u2019s \u201Cpresumption of innocence\u201D. Homs asked the press and the rest of the parties to \u201Cnot act as in Inquisition times\u201D, when people \u201Cwere already presented as guilty without allowing them the possibility to defend themselves\u201D. Homs stated that the Catalan Government respects Pujol\u2019s decision and, \u201Cat a personal level\u201D, he also wanted to express his \u201Csupport and trust\u201D.
Some parties understand Pujol\u2019s decision\u2026
The Secretary General of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), Marta Rovira, celebrated the fact that Pujol reacted \u201Cquickly\u201D after finding out about the TSJC\u2019s decision. According to Rovira, stepping down from his party and parliamentary roles, \u201Cis much more than what other politicians and parties have done in similar situations\u201D. Rovira refused to ask Pujol to resign as MP as well but she insisted that, if he were a member of the ERC, Pujol would have been asked to resign from all the internal and also all public positions.
The Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Maurici Lucema, asked people to respect Pujol\u2019s \u201Cpresumption of innocence\u201D because the PSC would like this principle to be respected in all cases, including his former \u2018number three\u2019, Daniel Fernández, indicted last Friday also for influence peddling. Lucema refused to criticise Pujol\u2019s decision and asked the justice to act quickly.
\u2026 while other parties criticised it
However, the rest of the opposition parties have shown less sympathy and have criticised Pujol\u2019s decision. The Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Catalan branch of the People\u2019s Party (PP), Enric Millo, asked Pujol \u201Cto truly resign\u201D and quit his seat in Parliament. Millo criticised Pujol for having \u201Cdelegated\u201D his responsibilities and stated that this is a \u201Chalf-resignation\u201D and not \u201Ca true one\u201D. Millo also asked the CiU leader and President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, why is he allowing this to happen.
The Spokesperson of the ICV-EUiA, Dolors Camats, stated that \u201Cit is not compatible\u201D that Pujol is keeping his MP status while he has been indicted by the TSJC. Camats underlined that \u201Cthis incompatibility\u201D \u201Cis not a matter of justice\u201D, because \u201Che has not been declared guilty of anything\u201D, but because of \u201Chis position\u201D and \u201Chis political responsibility\u201D. Camats emphasised that Catalan citizens \u201Cdo not deserve\u201D four MPs already being indicted for corruption in the Catalan Parliament, three from the CiU and one from the PSC.
The Spokesperson for the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C\u2019s), Jordi Cañas, \u201Cdemanded\u201D that Pujol quit the Parliament. Cañas joked about \u201Cdelegating\u201D his responsibility, as C\u2019s considered it not to be a resignation but avoiding his duties. \u201CIn England a minister resigns because of a traffic fine and here there is no resignation for being indicted for influence peddling\u201D, he underlined. In addition, C\u2019s stated that they will not sign any anti-corruption agreement with the CiU and the Catalan Government while people indicted for corruption are sitting in the Parliament.
The radical left-wing and independence party CUP asked Pujol and the rest of the MPs indicted for corruption to fully resign from public office and quit the Catalan Parliament. CUP\u2019s MP, Quim Arrufat, asked Pujol to resign as an MP and stop receiving a public salary while his implication in the technical vehicle inspection garages scandal is still to be clarified.