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Extortion is an activity that was not at all unfamiliar to Spain's patriotic police. This is demonstrated by the documents and audios to which has had access relating to the activity of Operation Catalonia. A classic case of the devastating effects of this dirty war is that of Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA), the bank that underwent intervention by the Andorran state and was then dissolved following the action of the patriotic police, a collateral victim of the illegal operation against the Catalan independence movement. The pressure on the owners of the bank, Higini and Ramon Cierco, and its CEO, Joan Pau Miquel, is included in the police memoranda written by commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, but is also evident in the forceful statements made in audios included in the complaint laid in Andorra against those responsible for this part of Operation Catalonia, with Spain's then-prime minister Mariano Rajoy at the head. This key piece of evidence - the recorded threat by the police - has also been presented in Spanish courts. For now, however, no judge of the National Audience court has wanted anything to do with it.

🔒 Secret documents incriminate Rajoy's Spanish government in the anti-independence Operation Catalonia


One of these audios features the conversation between the CEO of Banca Privada d'Andorra, Joan Pau Miquel, and the Spanish interior ministtry's attaché at the embassy in Andorra, Spanish Police chief inspector Celestino Barroso. The officer, who had already had previous contact with one of the Cierco brothers, Higini, presented himself to the BPA with a "message from Madrid". The message in question was that the Bank of Spain was carrying out an inspection of the Banco de Madrid, BPA's Spanish subsidiary. "And they will bring it down. And there is an American company willing to take over the bank when the Bank of Spain destroys the current one," explains the inspector. "But, I've been told to convey to you that it's up to you whether this ends up as nothing, so that the inspection is stopped, and everything continues as at present... As long as you give the okay to something that I don't know anything about", he added.

An embassy attaché 

Faced with this conversation opener, Joan Pau Miquel asked Barroso to identify himself and asked him if he was from the Spanish embassy and the conversation continued along these lines:

Barroso: Yes, I am a chief inspector of police.
Miquel: From the Spanish National Police?
Barroso: Yes, I am at the embassy and an interior ministry attaché. It's very much my mission, but...
Miquel: But I take it that everything you're telling me is official?
Barroso: Let's say it's... in quotation marks.
Miquel: Yes. And who should I see?
Barroso: I don't know any more. Even if I wanted to, I don't know any more. I know this phrase: that the Bank of Spain will take over the Banco Madrid and that there are Americans ready to take over, once the Bank of Spain brings down the axe; and that all this can be stopped as long as you agree... That it is in your hands. What will be asked of you, I don't know.

The inspector then insisted that he had already warned Higini [Cierco] that "talking costs nothing" and suggested sitting down to talk around a table to see if they come up with a scenario that was feasible and that would allow them to stop the Bank of Spain operation. "And you can avoid the shock, by doing what you are asked, I don't know what it will be...", he insisted. Joan Pau Miquel had to go to Madrid, where he met commissioner Marcelino Martín Blas (who called himself Félix), who asked him if his bank had accounts held by the Pujol family and also of Artur Mas and Oriol Junqueras.


🔒 The agony of Andorran bank BPA: from coercion by Operation Catalonia to the 'zombie complaint'


The effects

Weeks later, on July 7th, 2014, the newspaper El Mundo published details of the accounts of the Pujol Ferrusola family at the BPA, which the bank officials have always denied having given. In any case, the Spanish chief inspector's threats were consummated and an alert from the US Treasury's FinCEN agency forced the Andorran authorities to intervene in the BPA on March 10th, 2015, as well as prompting intervention in its subsidiary in Spain, Banco Madrid, by the Bank of Spain due to the alarm raised over alleged money laundering in the two banks. Both bank institutions were dissolved in 2016. It is a grave affair that has not been clarified and, until now, no-one has been held responsible, despite the fact that it was later concluded that Banco Madrid had not committed any illegality. Due to the closure of the Spanish subsidiary, its owners have demanded that payment from the Spanish government of 141 million euros in damages, which was rejected in the first instance. As for the BPA, the first court decision in Andorra on the alleged money laundering will be this October.



Memo of July 1st 2014, already referred to in this information series on Operation Catalonia: It explains that the BPA bank was successfully persuaded to provide information on the members of the Pujol Ferrusola family "although in a way that was forced and obliged by the circumstances", although "fearful of the possibility of losing the licence to operate in Spain as a private bank through the Banco Madrid brand". An alleged collaboration that did not save the bank.

Complaint in Andorra

Higini Cierco revealed this coercion in August 2016, when he was questioned by the Andorran police about the alleged irregularities of the BPA. The judge opened a separate section of that inquiry, which then became a complaint  of extortion, against then-PM Mariano Rajoy, ministers Jorge Fernández Díaz and Cristóbal Montoro and police officers José Manuel Villarejo, Marcelino Martin Blas, Celestino Barroso, among others.

In the complaint, laid by the Catalan entity Drets and the Institute of Human Rights of Andorra (IDH), who presented it as a private prosecution and in defence of the sovereignty of Andorra, the names of the defendants have been expanded, as they gradually uncovered the police and politicians involved in this dirty war against the Catalan independence movement, in which the Andorran state and the BPA bank were treated as expendible.

🔍 All of's articles in English on the Secret Papers and the Operation Catalonia affair