The 'number 3' of the governing CiU resigns from all offices after being indicted for several months
After being indicted for several months for an influence peddling and bribery case that is under judicial investigation, Oriol Pujol has now resigned as Secretary General of the CDC, the Liberal and largest force within the two-party Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU) that runs the Catalan Government. In addition, he has resigned as Member of the Catalan Parliament. Oriol Pujol, who is the son of the historical leader of conservative Catalan nationalism Jordi Pujol, was firstly indicted in March 2013 and back then he "delegated" his party and parliamentary tasks – where he was the President of CiU's parliamentary group. However, he did not officially resign as Secretary General and continued as MP, insisting in his innocence. Judicial, political and media pressure have increased in the last year and in March 2014, he was indicted for bribery for the same case, a tender to grant licenses to technical vehicle inspection garages in Catalonia.
Barcelona (ACN).- Oriol Pujol has now definitely resigned from all his party and Catalan Parliament posts after being indicted for several months for an influence peddling and bribery case that is under judicial investigation. Since 2012, Oriol Pujol was the Secretary General of CDC, the Liberal and largest force within the two-party Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU), which has run the Catalan Government since December 2010. Furthermore, he is the son of Jordi Pujol, President of Catalonia for 23 years (1980-2003) and historical leader of conservative Catalan nationalism. Since he was CiU's 'number 3', many were considering Oriol Pujol as a potential successor of the current President of Catalonia and leader of the CiU, Artur Mas, in a few years. On Monday evening, 16 months after his first indictment, Pujol finally decided to definitely resign from all posts in order not to damage Catalonia's self-determination process, he said in a press release. "I am resigning from everything in order not to damage anything", he wrote. Furthermore, during these last months, media and political pressure has continued or even increased, and it has included other members of the Pujol family. Now, the Supreme Court of Catalonia (TSJC) will no longer investigate him as he is no longer a Member of Parliament and the case will go back to the ordinary justice. In addition, CDC has to find another Secretary General and the three people that substituted Oriol Pujol when he delegated his tasks back in March 2013 are in the succession's pole position. The party will organise a meeting on the 6th of September to reorganise its structure, which will continue under Artur Mas' leadership.
Pujol "delegated" his daily tasks in March 2013, when he was first indicted
Oriol Pujol was first indicted in March 2013 by the Supreme Court of Catalonia (TSJC) for influence peddling in a tender to grant licenses to Technical Vehicle Inspection garages (ITV) in Catalonia. Back then, he "delegated" the tasks of Secretary General of CDC and President of CiU's group within the Catalan Parliament in the hands of three other people: Josep Rull and Lluís Maria Corominas for the party responsibilities and Jordi Turull for the parliamentary ones. It was a way to partially step down, to adopt a lower profile away from media attention and not to concentrate power in the hands of a single person. With this decision, Pujol was not involved in the daily decisions of the party, the CiU's parliamentary group or the Catalan Government. In addition he was not speaking in the party's name and was not participating in many meetings. However, Pujol did not officially resign as MP neither as CDC's Secretary General, still being officially CiU's 'number 3' after Artur Mas (CiU and CDC's President) and Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida (President of the Christian-Democrat party UDC and Secretary General of the CiU coalition).
In March 2014, the TSJC indicted Pujol for bribery related to the same case, expanding the judicial investigation and the list of potential felonies. Furthermore, Pujol's wife, Anna Vidal, was also indicted. The judge stated back then that there are "rational suggestions" giving grounds for believing that Pujol might have earned €30,000 through his wife's company for voting for some amendments of the Industrial Safety Law in 2008. At that time, the CiU and the Catalan Government were expressing their trust in Pujol's honesty and were hoping for the situation being clarified as soon as possible.
The ITV case
The current investigation derives from the case known as ‘Campeón’, which is centred in Galicia. The Catalan branch of the case appeared in the press in 2012 when five notorious people were arrested, two politicians and three businessmen: the ‘Number 2’ of Barcelona’s Provincial Council, Josep Tous; the Catalan Government’s Deputy Director of Industrial Safety, Isidre Masalles; the former General Director of Menta ITV, Ricard Puignou; the former CEO of Applus, Sergi Pastor; and Sergi Alsina, a partner in Alta Partners.
According to the indictment document issued in March 2013, Oriol Pujol allegedly used his political influence and contacts to have Tous and Masalles appointed in key public positions deciding on the allocation of ITV licenses. The TSJ believes that Tous could also have been working for Alsina and Puignou at the time. In addition, the court stated that it suspected Pujol of having pushed for the approval of a new territorial plan for ITV garages, favouring the private interests of Alsina and Puignou.
In addition, in the judicial report from March 2014, the TSJC judge based Pujol's indictment for bribery on reports from the Public Prosecution Office and the Spanish Tax Agency, both bodies run by the Spanish Government. The judge stated that there are "rational suggestions" for thinking that Oriol Pujol might have earned 30,000 euros through a company owned by his wife, Anna Vidal. The money is alleged to have been paid by Sergi Alsina, who is a close friend of Pujol from his youth and was involved in a company doing ITV inspections. Alsina might have received the money from businessman Ricard Puignou, who was running a company called Certio and wanted to obtain ITV licenses. Both Alsina and Puignou were also indicted for bribery. The judge is investigating whether Oriol Pujol received such money in exchange for voting for a few specific amendments to the Catalan Industrial Safety Law (which legislates on ITV inspections) in 2008. After Pujol's decision to resign as MP, the TSJC will no longer deal with this case and it will go back to ordinary justice, which will pursue the investigation.