El Mundo's corruption allegations – a November surprise

A few days ago, the pro-PP Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a story indicating that Artur Mas and Jordi Pujol were under suspicion of having secret Swiss bank accounts filled with money gained through corrupt practices linked to the Palau criminal case. The newspaper presented a police memo which suggested that these suspicions were already under court investigation.

In the days that have followed, Mas and Pujol have opened legal proceedings against the journalists behind the story and they've repeatedly denied the accusations. At the same time, they've asked the Spanish ministry of justice to explain how an apparently secret police report could have been leaked, and to identify who's responsible. The judge investigating the Palau corruption case also made clear that he hadn't been given any such police report. The following day, El Mundo accused the Mossos d'Esquadra, Catalonia's police force, of helping to destroy evidence linked to the case. The seo uk agency are also opening legal proceedings against the newspaper.

Yesterday, the ministry of justice informed the Catalan newspaper ARA that it couldn't find the original police report but that it seemed to be at least partly based on several different unofficial reports that it has found. Meanwhile, the same ministry informed the EFE agency that it thought the rest of the info on the mysterious police report could well be sourced from internet rumours, and not from any formal investigation. The rumours, not hard to find online, contain several names linked with the Catalan government. Many of the other names implicated are of senior PP officials in various central or autonomous governments. El Mundo did not publish any of these names in its story.

El Mundo has a mixed record when it comes to political revelations. In the past it helped uncover corruption scandals and government involvement with the GAL terrorist group. More recently, it spent months insisting that ETA was involved in the 11M Madrid bombings, despite a lack of evidence. Historically, El Mundo's targets for these exposés have been either politically neutral civil servants or political opponents of the PP.

Right now, it's not clear how this story will develop. Is it possible that Mas and Pujol have actually received funds from corrupt public contract deals? Of course it is. But the absence of an actual police report on which the story depends, and irregularities in the info presented by El Mundo suggest that there is at least a chance that this might not join the ranks of El Mundo's illustrious investigations. Some police sources apparently blame central government HQ for the leaks.

El Mundo most likely planned this story as a sort of late 'October surprise'. Will it have any effect on the Catalan elections? I doubt it.

14 thoughts on “El Mundo's corruption allegations – a November surprise

  1. Nice new look to the blog – like it!

    A "dirty tricks" misinformation campaign must be plausible; there's no use claiming that Mas is receiving funds from North Korea, nobody would believe that. So naturally this fabrication centres on the Palau case, CiU's greatest scandal and one that they pulled out all the stops to hush up.

    So we *could* believe these accusations, if there were any substance to them, any proof at all. But there isn't. The Catalan public, rightly sensing a smear job, is reacting angrily, in many cases switching support from other pro-independence options to CiU.

    So unlike you Tom, I believe this will have a strong backlash effect, shoring up the Mas vote and maybe even giving him the absolute majority he craves. Take my wife for example, she was going to vote ERC but now feels that since Mas is under direct attack from Madrid, the voters should stand by him to show that their tactics won't work. How many others are going to think like that?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I have tried this look before and I'm coming back to it now. It will probably go through a few more iterations before I'm happy with it but there you are.

      Regarding the backlash effect, yes that's definitely possible. I think I'm right in saying that El Mundo published after the last opinion poll results were out so it's tricky to tell until Sunday evening. El Periòdic d'Andorra sometimes runs late opinion polls for Spanish elections but generally likes to pretend that Catalan ones aren't happening. We shall see.

      Rate this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      1. Yes I've seen it. An impressive run and I applaud the effort.

        But much reporting of the story seems to be rather burnt by Giles Tremlett's Madridcentric attitudes. Also, though this is hardly a surprise, the comments pages are full of trolls who know nothing about the issues. I know that's par for the course but it's so tiring to be told that facts and experiences you've related are "Nonsense" and not get an explanation why!

        Anyway, I don't let them get to me.

        (Also I don't like the name "Barça-loners")

        Rate this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    2. I agree that the name "Barça-loners" is crap, but it's not quite as cringeworthy as other Grauniad headlines I've seen this week. "Plane stupid" – rockstar tries to take hand grenade on flight. "Shell shock" – sculptures made out of tortoise shells.
      Par for the course in the Guardian coverage – the horrid punning headlines, the wave of multimedia presentations without any depth, the trollish comments from smartarses who apparently haven't got anything better to do. Also their lack of understanding of the Spanish political/journalistic scene means that they treat El Mundo as a reliable source, apparently unaware of their track record.

      BUT – Giles Tremlett is taking a back seat on this one, leaving journos uncontaminated with Madrid press stereotypes to explore the issues with an open mind. The collaboration with La Vanguardia means they get a selection of representative articles from local journos. And the sheer volume of coverage signifies that they think it is highly important not just for Spain but also in the context of Europe, which is the correct judgement IMO.

      For my money the best article is by Jordi Galí, I liked the original article in LV a lot and was going to translate it myself, but they saved me the trouble. Fresh thinking, progressive concepts, far away from the crusty old teacher-types who inhabit the caves of Catalan ethnic-identity politics.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/19/case-for-catalonia-independence

      English a third official language for Catalonia? Got to be a winner.

      Rate this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      1. Yes, there is potential for doing something new, something good. For all the apocalypse talk that is tossed around by the Spanish nationalists, it is very hard to believe that we can be more fucked up than we already are.

        Rate this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      2. Talking of terrible Guardian headlines, how about this one in today's edition describing an avian epidemic health problem? – "Great tits prone to pox"

        Rate this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. UPDATE: The head of a police union has said that he'll release the mysterious police report at 1pm today to anyone interested. He said that he supported its original leaking because he and his fellow police are sick of 'so much corruption and never any investigation'.

    Will the police report be an even bigger surprise? Is it possible that what he releases will include the names from other political parties, as mentioned in my post? Or is this intended as a hammer blow to CiU, and CiU only?

    Find out at 1pm, I guess.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    1. PS – From an interview I heard with the police guy just now on TV3, he said there are no names "except for the initials J.P." (which everyone takes to be Jordi Pujol) and the report names the CDC party as being the account holder.

      Rate this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      1. I think it is supposed to be the same one. Which means my blog post was a bit wrong. Bascially, El Mundo had even less than I thought.

        Rate this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      2. OK you can read it here if you like

        http://file01.lavanguardia.com/2012/11/23/54355552786-url.pdf

        My take on it – if it's really a police report, the police are more sloppy than you might expect, it's a bit incoherent. The text names Jordi Pujol snr, Jordi Pujol jnr, Marta Ferrusola and Artur Mas snr (as Pujol's agent) as Swiss bank account holders, but not Artur Mas jnr, the present CiU leader.

        The main body of the text is already known, about payments from Palau (Millet-Montull) to Fundació Fargas Trias and through them to CDC/CiU. It doesn't seem to connect to the other part, which is really about the Pujol family business and their possible accounts. Another fragment of hearsay reports that Aznar's FAES received a big payoff from el Palau.

        A strange part is the inclusion of an email or letter from an anonymous "whistleblower" who starts off with "I saw this programme Salvados on La Sexta, and it made me think…" He goes on with a lot of hearsay about CiU, which any one of us could make up. There are hints but no concrete facts.

        At the core of this report is the anonymous tip-off which says nothing substantial, but is just that, an anonymous letter. It is then padded with a lot of cut-and-paste from other reports previously under investigation, but which do NOT name Artur Mas as the recipient of any Palau-Trias/Fargas payments. Finally – this is the El Mundo contribution – it is sexed up with Mas and Felip Puig mentioned by name, which is not in this document.

        Finally, the document is unsigned and unstamped. Any or all of it could have been written by anybody. If it's a montage, it reminds me of Tony Blair's "sexed-up" Iraq WMD report, but much shabbier.

        La chapuza definitiva, vaya…

        Rate this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. My comment on the latest Guardian report, posted as "Catalan Paddy"

    The ironic thing is with the huge wave of reporting by The Guardian this week, they're actually missing the big story – "El Mundo"-gate, the leaking of supposed but doubtful fraud police files supposedly naming Artur Mas and allies as holders of illegal Swiss bank accounts, the libel cases brought by Mas et al, and the publication of the report by the police members' union.

    A mega story of mini-Watergate proportions under the Guardian's nose and they haven't smelt it yet.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *