Catalan firefighters leadership accused in alleged corruption case
Police find duplicate invoices and 2% commission rates on truck maintenance contracts
A Barcelona court has accused seven people high up in the leadership of the Catalan firefighters - Bombers de la Generalitat - of presumed corruption.
The case relates to the contracts of maintenance of the trucks. In an investigation, the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra have found numerous duplicate or triplicate invoices and indications of commissions of up to 2%, as uncovered this Sunday by the newspaper 'La Vanguardia'.
Among those investigated are the current director-general of the fire department, Joan Delort, and his predecessor in office, Manel Pardo, who are scheduled to testify next Friday before the judge.
In a statement, the interior ministry said it was willing to provide all the required documentation and denied that any officials had "benefited financially."
The case was uncovered in April 2021 when the head of the technical service of the Catalan firefighters reported that the contract with the company Grupo Iturri for the maintenance of the fleet of trucks no longer had a balance. In fact, it closed 2020 with a debt of €1.7 million which was to be corrected in the first three months of 2021.
This set off alarms and forced an urgent meeting between the then-boss of the firefighters, Manel Pardo, and a lawyer from the interior ministry. According to La Vanguardia, Pardo said the contract was historically poorly drawn up and showed a document with the invoices, in which he wrote down a figure of +2%, alleging "we can't complain, because before the amount to be paid was higher."
The official, considering the details potentially serious, took advantage of Pardo's carelessness to obtain the document and elevated it to his superior, Francesc Claverol, before the case reached the then interior minister, Miquel Sàmper, and an internal investigation was launched.
In a first analysis, the lawyers already found numerous irregularities: invoices of maintenance works made several times on the same vehicle, repairs to vehicles with license plates that did not correspond, and invoices without concepts.
The report finally reached the public prosecutor's office and the 14th investigative court of `Barcelona began a secret investigation with several telephone interventions and statements from the Catalan police.
The secrecy of the investigation was lifted at the end of December and a judge summoned the entire previous leadership of the Fire Department to testify as defendants, in addition to the current director, Joan Delort, and the manager of the company Grupo Iturri in Catalonia, Eduardo José Díaz Hervás.
Interior ministry took the case to the prosecution
Former Catalan interior ministry Miquel Sàmper said on Monday that he gave the information to the public prosecution's office after the internal investigation.
In February 2021, as he said to Catalonia's public radio station and to private SER Catalunya radio, lawyers informed him about the irregularities in some invoices. At the time, they started an internal investigation but it did not give any good result.
Sàmper has defended that if a work was not done, it should not be in an invoice, however, he warned that the responsibility will be for both the company and the public administration.
Right now, the investigation at Catalonia's High Court that started in November is still ongoing. On Friday, the judge had scheduled a hearing with seven people but it now has been postponed without an exact date.
The Court is investigating the irregularities on alleged corruption, falsification of documents, among other charges.