The Court of Accounts has imposed a joint and several liability of 5.2 million euros on the former president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, and three of his ministers for using public funds in the unofficial independence referendum on 9th November 2014.
This Monday the conclusion of the court's inquiry was communicated to the legal representatives of Mas, his vice-president Joana Ortega, former ministers Irene Rigau and Francesc Homs and seven others who participated in the organisation of the 2014 vote. The proceedings had been opened follow a complaint from the SCC (Catalan Civil Society) and the Association of Catalan Lawyers for using public funds for the unofficial referendum.
This total is in response to the costs of the organisation of the non-binding referendum, some 4.8 million euros, plus the interest accrued since the vote, some 400,000 euros, according to SCC sources.
The Court of Accounts has this Monday informed all the relevant people how much money they will have to pay within 15 days to guarantee being able to meet a potential sentence. The quantity of 5.25 millions euros is the total that Mas will have to meet if the other former leaders don't manage to place their respective guarantees.
Meanwhile, Rigau has been given a maximum total of 3 million euros, Homs, 2.1 million and Ortega, 800,000, said the SCC sources, although these are provisional figures as the leaders are submitting pleas after finding out these quantities.
None of the former Catalan leaders went to the Court of Accounts this Monday for today's formality because they weren't obliged to and could send their lawyers to find out about the provisional settlement which specifies the required amount.
The complainants had claimed the collective reimbursement of more than 5 million euros by way of accounts responsibility for the irregular use of public money and argued that, although Mas and the ministers had already been sentenced for disobedience by the Constitutional Court for organising the consultation, this didn't exempt the from financial responsibility for the irregular use of public money.
The complainants broke down the spending for the total of more than 5 million: construction of an institutional web page (14,837.60 euros); voting material (70,532.08); acquisition of laptops for polling stations (828,171.42); insurance policy for volunteers (1,409.26); computer support (1,106,185.77) and transmission of information (307,962.71).
Banned from public office
This financial penalty joins the sentences handed down to the four politicians by the criminal justice system: the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia banned Mas from public office for two years and Ortega and Rigau for 9 months for disobeying the Constitutional Court over the 2014 vote.
Francesc Homs was judged by the Spanish Supreme Court due to his parliamentary privilege as a deputy in the Spanish Congress and was sentenced to a 13-month ban from public office for the same facts.
In their resolution, the Supreme Court specified that it was limiting itself to the charges he was accused of, and hadn't considered whether the use of public funds had criminal relevance. As such, they didn't get into evaluating if there was misuse of public funds in the organisation of the vote, which saw expenditure from the public coffers of some 5 million euros.