Catalan politics mired in graft allegations

8th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

8 March 2005, BARCELONA - The row over allegations of corruption in the former Catalan regional government showed no signs of abating after a small businessman claimed he had paid "commissions" to the previous authority.

8 March 2005

BARCELONA - The row over allegations of corruption in the former Catalan regional government showed no signs of abating after a small businessman claimed he had paid "commissions" to the previous authority.

During five hours of testimony, Juan Antonio Salguero, owner of a small Catalan construction, firm told public prosecutors he paid 20 percent "commissions" to the Barcelona public housing firm Adigsa for 18 projects carried out in the city in recent years.

The move follows a report by an independent auditor which said the former authority, run by the centre-right nationalist CiU party for over 20 years, did not follow European Union regulations.

The auditing firm Faura-Casas Auditors-Consultors said in a report that the Convergence and Union party (CiU) failed to follow European Union regulations over its last year in power when hiring construction companies.

The report came after a judicial investigation began into allegations of corruption levelled at the previous regional government in Catalonia, in north-east Spain.

The inquiry started after the present regional prime minister, Pasqual Maragall, accused the CiU of taking cuts of three percent from every public contract awarded during its 20 years in power.

Maragall, the Socialist head of the Generalitat, or Catalonian regional government, made the accusations during a debate in the region's parliament over the scandal of a landslide caused by work on extending the metro system.

Jose Maria Mena, public prosecutor in Catalonia, is to start the investigation which could last up to six months.

Artur Mas, head of the CiU, asked Maragall to withdraw the allegations. Maragall did withdraw the allegations later in the debate.

Meanwhile, the Catalan government is to create a commission of investigation into the Carmel affair, in which poorly planned works on the metro system in Barcelona caused a landslide which left 1,000 people homeless.

Two senior public figures at the centre of the affair have already resigned.

Jordi Julia, minister of transport in the Catalan regional government, and Ramon Serra, president of GISA, the public company involved in the works, both tendered their resignations, which were accepted by authorities.

Juliá was not directly implicated in the scandal, but had signed two agreements to allow the work to go ahead and, as the minister ultimately responsible, resigned.

GISA, for which Serra was president, was not directly involved in the work, but did oversee the project and also resigned.

Residents of Carmel in the Catalan capital were forced to leave their home after a landslide caused by work on an extension to the metro line last month.

Judge Elisabet Castelló opened the investigation into the state-run agency GISA, which is behind the metro extension, the private construction companies FCC, Comsa and Copisa Constructora Pirenaica, who worked on the project, and another management company TEC-4, as well as the firm involved in the geological survey of the land, Geocontrol.

The regional Catalan government or Generalitat is also implicated in the fiasco.

The companies have been asked to pay a surety of EUR 100 million into court.

But the cost of rebuilding scores of homes and the area is expected to be twice this amount.

Spanish premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero pledged cash to help the scores of families left homeless.

The government will pay each family which had lost their home an initial EUR 10,000 to cover costs while their properties were being rebuilt.

Each family will also get an extra EUR 1,500 to replace household objects.

A number of buildings collapsed when work to extend a metro line disturbed the ground below in January.

The work inadvertently caused a landslide which left a 20-metre wide hole.

At least 1,000 residents of 50 blocks had to leave their homes and scores are still sleeping  with relatives or in hotels.

The council denies it should not have allowed the work and a full investigation has begun.

But the Spanish daily El Pais reported that similar tunnelling techniques to extend the Madrid metro were banned ten years before.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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