Wave of global support for ex-economy minister facing multi-million euro fine
Former Harvard professor accused of spending public money abroad on independence push retired almost two years before referendum
Andreu Mas-Colell, the man who was in charge of finance and budgeting in Catalonia’s government from the economic crisis after the 2008 crash until January 2016, has received a wave of international support as he faces a multi-million euro fine from Spain’s Court of Auditors.
In April, Spain's Court of Auditors summoned numerous Catalan government figures from between 2011 and 2017, including former presidents Carles Puigdemont and Artur Mas, over foreign policy expenditure possibly linked to the independence push.
The tribunal considers that the executive spent public money abroad to promote Catalonia’s independence push and deem that around 40 politicians and figures should be held personally liable for this.
The group will have to appear in court on June 29 and 30 due to lawsuits put forward by the public prosecutor, the solicitor general, and two unionist civil society groups. They have accused the officials of misuse of public funds.
Mas-Colell is a world-leading microeconomist and formerly the Louis Berkman Professor of Economics at Harvard. He also founded the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and served as the head of the Department of Economics and Business at Universitat de Pompeu Fabra during his career.
In a detailed thread posted to Twitter, his son, Alex Mas, explains that the professor was sent an 18,000-page document of accusations and given just ten days to reply. Also according to his son, this lengthy document does not specify the former minister’s personal connection with the alleged misuse of funds.
Alex Mas adds that the potential penalty his father faces far exceeds his net worth, he, along with the other accused individuals, could have all of their assets and property, and income seized, despite, as Alex says, not having “anything to do with the organization of the referendum, or the events that transpired.”
Normally I would not be posting personal developments on this website, but in this case I have a pressing concern. My dad, Spanish economist Andreu Mas-Colell, is dealing with an incredibly difficult and unjust situation. 1/— Alex Mas (@AlexMasPton) June 14, 2021
A change.org petition has been established calling for due process for Mas-Colell’s case as there will be no trial over the matter and a penalty would simply be handed down. The petition has already collected thousands of signatures.
Appeals would inevitably take years and could reach as high as the European Court of Human Rights should all avenues within Spain’s judiciary system be exhausted.
However, regardless of the appeal, the accused must put up a guarantee of the full amount requested for the fine.
Among the voices adding their support for Mas-Colell are Harvard professor Dani Rodrik, Director of Research at the Think Tank Independent Institute Alexander Tabarrok, Gerardo Esquivel, deputy governor of Banco de México, and the official Twitter account of the Centre for Economic Research at Georgetown University.
Many of us at Georgetown learnt from the distinguished Spanish economist Andreu Mas-Colell. We are disturbed by these reports of his treatment by the Spanish government. This deserves proper public airing, with full legal recourse given to Mas-Colell. https://t.co/hob1jYnGpJ— Georgetown Center for Economic Research (@GCER_Georgetown) June 14, 2021
Alex Mas says his father is being “targeted” in an “unjust” manner and faces “complete and arbitrary expropriation.”
In fact, one of the members of the tribunal threatening this financial punishment even dissented and wrote that she was against the decision that “was not impartial.”
The official believes that there is no “excess of foreign action exercised by the Catalan government” in relation to the area that corresponds to Andreu Mas-Colell, going totally against the majority rule of the auditors.