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The Spanish public spending tribunal, the Court of Accounts, is demanding 1.9 million euros from former Catalan president and current MEP Carles Puigdemont, just as is it doing to other former senior Catalan government officials who are now compelled to pay massive sums of money and have a very limited time to raise them.

According to digital newspaper El Confidencial, the president in exile's status as an MEP will help him in responding to the demand from the much-criticised Spanish tribunal, just as his parliamentary immunity from prosecution has also served to provide a barrier of protection from the European Arrest Warrants issued by Spain's Supreme Court.

The Court of Accounts will seize assets from the 40 government officials in the administration between 2011 and 2017 if the 40 of them are unable, collectively, to pay the required amounts. In the case of the former president, in the absence of any mortgage-free properties, he has only his MEP salary. However, if the body intends to seize Puigdemont's salary, it will run into a series of obstacles due to the European Parliament's regulations.

One third of his salary

According to his lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, Puigdemont's salary is "virtually untouchable." Parliamentary sources explained to the Spanish media outlet that the rules only allow the confiscation of one third of his salary, of the compensation MEPs receive after the end of their term of office or of the retirement pension they are entitled to.

Specifically, the regulation reads as follows: "The allowance provided for in Article 10 of the Statute (the salary received by MEPs), the transitional allowance or the retirement pension may be confiscated, up to the limit of one third of its value, through a judicial resolution or a decision of the competent administrative authority".

Similarly, the regulations continue: "The secretary general will issue instructions with a view to the implementation of such a measure, ensuring the effective exercise of the deputy's mandate and the proper functioning of Parliament, after interviewing the interested party." Currently, the secretary general is German politician Klaus Welle.

MEPs receive a net monthly salary of 6,824.85 euros, and thus one third would be about 2,274.95 euros.

The Court of Accounts has set at 5.4 million euros the total sum to be repaid to the public coffers by 34 former Catalan government officials for foreign policy actions between 2011 and 2017 that are deemed to have been carried out in support of Catalonia's independence. The investigating delegate of the tribunal - not a judge, as the court is not a court of law - has granted them 15 working days (which began last Wednesday) to pay the sum on a joint and several basis among those affected. That is, the entire group has to hand over a total sum of 5.4 million euros. If they do not do so within the set period, property will be seized from individuals up to a value which has also been set by the court.

Eight of those accused by the body have been deemed responsible individually for amounts ranging from 1.9 million to 3.4 million euros (Albert Royo, Mireia Vidal, Francesc Homs, Andreu Mas-Colell, Artur Mas, Raül Romeva, Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont). The remaining officials face sums up to 178,000 euros.   

The provisional accounting report that the Court of Accounts handed over to those affected put the allegedly irregular expenses at 5,422,879.48 euros. The only items that have since undergone slight downward variations have been those attributed to the Catalan government delegations in Denmark and Croatia.


Main photo: The former president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont / EFE

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