Spain’s interior ministry plotted fake reports to discredit independence camp

Former police official and ex-minister's head of office wanted to link politicians to Swiss bank accounts, according to leaked tapes

VilaWeb
VilaWeb / Catalan News Agency
20.05.2022 - 10:11
Actualització: 13.06.2022 - 10:05

“Spanish police link Pujol and Mas’ bank accounts in Switzerland with CiU corruption.” That was Spanish newspaper El Mundo’s front page headline on 16 November 2012, just nine days before the Catalan election. The story referred to Jordi Pujol, who had been the Catalan president for 23 years, and his CiU coalition heir and president in 2012, Artur Mas, who had pledged to hold an independence vote if he managed to get an absolute majority, as some polls forecasted.

After El Mundo’s article, his party began to drop in polls and ended up losing 12 seats – and not winning at least 6 with which they would have taken full control of parliament – forcing it to negotiate with other political forces to stay in power. The supposed bank accounts in Switzerland the outlet talked about were never verified, as the supposed police report, unsigned and not dated, stated.

Almost a decade later, on Wednesday, El País newspaper published leaked tapes of a conversation between former high-ranking police official José Manuel Villarejo – famous in Spain for several secret operations he took part in along with secret service agents – and the then Spanish interior minister’s head of office, Francisco Martínez, of the conservative People’s Party. Villarejo spent over three years in provisional jail and still has to face several trials for some of the operations he discreetly executed.

Election impact

According to the leaked conversation, the police official told Martínez that a businessman had claimed the Pujol family had opened an account in Switzerland – and asked for €250,000 in order to reveal all details. Villarejo laid out his plan to discredit pro-independence leaders as the right-hand man of the then interior minister for the conservative PP, Jorge Fernández Díaz, consented without stopping the plot.

The police officer also said he had spoken to a banker in Switzerland who could send them documents about the supposed bank accounts of a Foundation linked to the Pujol family. None of the documents were revealed and the full plan was never carried out, but the allegations published by El Mundo did impact the election.

“I am sure Spain’s PM’s office knew about it. This cannot be organized by a ministry on its own,” Mas said in an interview with RAC1 radio station on Wednesday. “I will not say they stole the election from me, but it had a big impact on the final outcome.” Also pro-independence CUP MP Mireia Vehí said that, despite PP not being in power anymore, the Spanish government, now led by the Socialists, is “managing the deep state the same way,” referring to the Catalangate espionage scandal. For her, the leaked tapes are “chilling.”

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