The prosecution being carried out by Spain's public spending audit body, the Court of Accounts, against those responsible for the Catalan Government's foreign relations expenditure between 2011 and 2017, may end up in courtrooms beyond Spain. The defence team of exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, led by lawyer Gonzalo Boye, is considering making a complaint about this procedure before the Belgian judiciary.
"We will use all mechanisms to demand responsibility for this action. A complaint or a lawsuit. We will spare no effort, because it is clearly an abuse," Boye told ElNacional.cat. The Court of Accounts has set at 5.4 million euros the deposit it requires from Catalan government officials for allegedly misappropriating funds from the foreign ministry budget, and in the case of Puigdemont it claims 1,981,474.47 euros, as a result of the expenses on Catalan offices, trips and events abroad during his term as president of Catalonia.
The fact that Puigdemont's residence is currently fixed in Waterloo, near Brussels, means that it is in Belgium where he will suffer the damage of this action by the Court of Accounts - through confiscation of funds and assets - and it is thus in the justice system of that country that he will have to appeal, according to his lawyer.
Request to lift immunity
Appearing before the delegated investigator for the case, María Esperanza García Moreno, lawyer Boye stated that the documentation provided to the defendants does not state that the audit body has lodged any request to be able to act against Carles Puigdemont, who has immunity from prosecution due to his status as a Member of the European Parliament.
The investigator replied that she did not need it, but Boye, warning that any action against his client is protected by his parliamentary immunity, ensured that the court record showed the non-existence of any request in this regard, and he will include these facts in his arguments.
Violation of rights
The lawyer, who is also in charge of the defence of two other defendants in the case, Martí Anglada and Josep Suárez, says he will present arguments showing that these proceedings are affecting basic rights such as the right to a defence, to due process, to effective judicial protection, to the impartial judge predetermined by law, to the right to private property, to the presumption of innocence, and to legal certainty.
He will also denounce the "inquisitorial nature" of the proceedings being carried out by the Court of Accounts, which, he says are "inappropriate for a democratic state governed by the rule of law".
As well, Puigdemont's defence will argue that the tribunal is, by de facto means, undermining the Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy, given that the Catalan government's foreign action is provided for in the statutory text.
The lawyer also protested against the way which the investigator addressed his defendant, as Mr Puigdemont, and demanded that he should be referred to correctly as "The Right Honourable", since he maintains his status as a former president of Catalonia.
Complaint for abuse of office
Boye's statement about the complaint against the audit body comes in addition to that made by former Catalan minister Francesc Homs on June 10th, when he publicly warned the delegated investigator that if she did not correct her ruling, he would file a complaint for abuse of office against her.
The submissions presented to the court already include compaints about the conduct of García Moreno, accusing her of "administrative arbitrariness that leads to unjust resolutions." Furthermore, it is asserted that these unjust resolutions have been taken despite knowing that they are improper.