Misuse of public funds is one of the accusations levelled against the defendants in the Catalan independence trial and, on Wednesday, with the first expert witness account, four experts from the Inland Revenue have assessed public expenses for the October 1 referendum at at least 917,648 Euros, not including taxes. This figure is below the over two million estimated by the State Attorney General and the Government Attorney's Office
The specific figure was provided by Mercedes Vega, the coordinator of the general intervention of the State Administration, in the first sitting of the trial after the break for the festivities of Saint Isidore and the constitution of Parliament.
Moreover, Vega pointed out that the expense is deemed to have been made "regardless of whether or not payment has been made":
"Once the expense has been made, a reduction in net equity is made and, therefore, the damage is understood to have been done. Should there subsequently be a file that cancels the administrative proceeding, this would not imply the annulment of the obligation as such."
Josep Riba, the defence counsel of former minister of Justice Carles Mundó, has focused on this question so that they could specify if, in the event that no service was provided, it could be concluded that there was no expense.
The trustee held her ground. "The question is not whether or not the corrective bill has been issued, but rather, which events lead to the issuance of the first invoice and the subsequent one correcting it", she stated. Faced with the insistence of the attorney, one of the civil servants, Sara Izquierdo, ended up accepting Riba's point:
"If the corrective invoice responds to the fact that the initial invoice was issued without any service being provided, we could say that the expense never existed."
The expenses accounted for include 176,000 Euros for the "mission of international observers" of Diplocat, coordinated by Helena Catt and made up from a dozen people.
According to the expert witnesses, they were paid "fees and stipends" to their respective bank accounts. The basis to relate this work to the referendum is the document with conclusions bearing the title "Analysis of the political context in Catalonia before the 1 October referendum on the independence of Catalonia."
At this point, attorney Judit Gené, from the defence team of Joaquim Forn and Meritxell Borràs, attempted to have civil servant Teresa Hernández explain if the report "validated the referendum, because you say it was an international observer mission." The expert witness pointed out that the report described the events of 1-O, but could not state that she drew a conclusion from it.
The defence counsels also pointed out that part of the expenses of the international experts were paid in January 2018, when article 155 was already in force.
Other expenses they mentioned included 10,700 Euros over 10 months for the Catalonia Votes website or 91,000 Euros for advertisements in the press for a conference in the European Parliament held by Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva.
Whoever had to pay the train tracks advertisement is "irrelevant"
With regard to the advertisement with the train tracks broadcast by the CCMA and for which two bills for over 112.000 and 220.000 Euros were issued, the expert witness justified that they took into account because "they started from the value given to it by the CCMA itself when the invoice was issued." Beyond that, they added that "the discussion on whether it was to be paid by the Presidency or by the Media Corporation within its general activity" is irrelevant with regard to misuse of public funds.
Attorney and former minister Francesc Homs asked the expert witnesses if they were aware of the free broadcast of advertisements in the context of a framework agreement with the Generalitat and which are therefore not reflected in accounting. One of the civil servants said they were not aware of it and that the general intervention did not forward them this agreement for analysis.
- Catalan independence trial