Time runs out this Wednesday at midnight for the 34 former senior officials of the Mas and Puigdemont governments of Catalonia to deposit the bond amount of 5.4 million euros with Spain's Court of Accounts. The Spanish public audit body's refusal to extend the payment period, when it frequently does grant such extensions, will make it impossible for those targetted by the tribunal to benefit from the risk fund that the Catalan government created two weeks ago to cover them. At the moment there is no bank willing to enter the operation and the Catalan economy minister, Jaume Giró, who is responsible for the Catalan Institute of Finance (ICF), which will manage the fund, has decided "not to take the unnecessary risk" of "subjecting any of the ICF professionals to be part of an operation which, if we take into account the precedents, would cause distress, worry and fear to both them and their families." However, he assured that "the government will continue to do everything in its power."
This was announced by Giró, the minister who devised the scheme to give reliet to those pursued by the Court of Accounts, during a press conference following this Tuesday's meeting of the Catalan cabinet. "The first bank institutions we contacted, both banks and credit unions, all with significant business in Catalonia, did not consider it appropriate to accept our suggestion," said Jaume Giró.
From here, "the focus will become wider." However, the minister did not want to specify whether foreign financial institutions will be approached. "Allow me to refrain from giving any details on the institutions we will work with," he remarked and reiterated that it is "a technical operation, with the guarantee for a 10 million euro fund already approved, and that it has no financial risk, no commercial risk and no legal risk".
For practical purposes, the conclusion is that those prosecuted by the Court of Accounts will have to look for an alternative way to gather sufficient funds to be deposited as a bond. The pro-independence Solidarity Fund has raised one million euros; therefore, much remains to be covered. There are already political parties that have asked their members for an extraordinary contribution to prevent asset confiscations from taking place. If in the future the Catalan executive manages to find a bank that will act as guarantor, government sources explain that the sums that the defendants have previously deposited could be replaced. However, the Court of Accounts would have to accept this.
What is the fear?
The eocnomy minister does not consider it a failure, because everything remains open. He summed it up with a reflection, that "in life, there is something worse than things not working out at first, and that is not to have tried to do anything." The decree on the risk fund is pending its approval by the Council of Statutory Guarantees - the Catalan body that ensures that new leglisation meets constitutional requirements - which has until July 29th to decide whether the fund complies with the law. From Giró's point of view, the combination of "a lot of noise and very little time" over this issue has scared the banks away and "doesn't help to resolve it now". "We underestimated the fear," he lamented. In this regard, if the Statutory Guarantees body gives the green light, he hopes that some of the banks that have now turned down the proposition will rethink their position.
He stressed that for the first time since 2020 every effort has been made to protect the people persecuted by the Court of Accounts. "The Catalan economy ministry will work to find a legal formula that protects the defendants' status as innocent" - they have not been tried by any court on the matter, as the Court of Accounts is not a court of law. But, he added, it is very difficult when we find "such a politicized body" that acts out of "revenge".
Although at the moment the 34 affected in this latest case centred on the public accounts auditing body will not be able to obtain protection from the fund, Giró hopes that the tool will last beyond this legislature. “We have tried it and it will serve for other cases,” he concluded.