A court in Barcelona has opened an oral trial against Josep Lluís Alay, the head of exiled President Puigdemont’s office, for the expenses of a trip to New Caledonia in 2018, where he attended a self-determination referendum as an international observer. The prosecution is asking for him to be sentenced to three years in prison, seven years of public office disqualification for a crime of embezzlement and ten more years of disqualification for another crime of prevarication.

The court considers that the purpose of the trip does not fit with the functions he had at Puigdemont’s office and that the 4,580 euros it cost should not have been paid with public funds. The tickets for a toll of 15.20 euros are also being investigated, for a round trip to the Lledoners prison on a visit to political prisoners. Both expenses were paid by the president’s office.

Alay was invited to New Caledonia by the Canac Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) to attend the self-determination referendum held on 4 November 2018. In a statement, Puigdemont’s office said Alay had always complied with current legislation and that its task, like that of all office workers, had been to cover personal and political needs with the decorum and dignity that correspond to the functions performed by the President.

In February 2020, the Spanish High Court closed another case against Alay for an alleged crime of concealment, because he was traveling with President Puigdemont when he was arrested in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. And now there is yet another case pending, for the Volhov case, which instructs the court number 1 in Barcelona for an alleged Russian plot related to the Catalan pro-independence movement.

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