A trip to the self-determination referendum in the former French colony of New Caledonia could cost Josep Lluís Alay, head of the office of the former president of Carles Puigdemont, a prison sentence. The Prosecutor’s Office claims three years in prison for embezzlement on understanding that Alay paid with public money “a personal trip outside of his functions” as head of the office.
In her indictment, the prosecutor Teresa Duerto maintains the same thesis that led her to open proceedings and file a complaint against Alay almost two years ago. The only expense in question is the 4,394.79 euros that Alay’s trip to the New Caledonia referendum cost. The controllers of the Generalitat authorized the trip at the proposal of Alay, but the prosecutor considers that the head of the office “exceeded his functions” by requesting that it be paid for with public funds.
The prosecutor emphasizes that the invitation extended to Alay by the Canaco and Socialist National Liberation Front of New Caledonia to attend the island in the week prior to the self-determination referendum held on November 4, 2018 was “in a personal capacity” and not as head of the Puigdemont office, so he considers that it should not have been paid with the card that Alay has by law.
The prosecutor acknowledges that Alay followed the internal regulatory channels for the trip to be paid for with public funds: he requested permission from the Secretary General of the Department of the Presidency, who authorized the trip and approved the expense. But he did so, according to Duerto, “knowing that it was a personal trip” and that “there was no reason whatsoever to justify the payment” from the budget allocation that the offices of the former presidents of the Generalitat receive each year. .
Moreover, for the prosecutor, the officials and auditors of the Generalitat who authorized the expense of the trip did so without knowing “that they were paying personal expenses with public money.” This statement by the prosecutor clashes with what was stated by the witnesses in the investigation of the case, who explained that the trip could have been considered irregular if it had been contracted through an agency other than that of the Generalitat or if their requests had not been submitted. bills, something that did not happen.
The witnesses also recalled that the offices of former presidents have autonomy to manage their budget, only subject to formal controls. This is also accepted by Alay, who in his statement before the judge alleged that he spent more than 2,600 euros on floral ornaments from the office of José Montilla’s former identity to defend his trip.
The exculpatory arguments have not convinced the Prosecutor’s Office and Alay will have to sit on the bench of the Barcelona Court. In her brief, the prosecutor points to Alay as the author of a crime of embezzlement, although alternatively she suggests that he be convicted as a necessary cooperator of the same crime, that is, not as the material responsible for the crime but as a person who has helped to disburse undue public funds.
In addition to the crime of embezzlement, for which he asks for three years in prison, the Prosecutor’s Office accuses Alay of a crime of prevarication. Altogether, he claims 17 years of disqualification from public office or employment and that he compensates the Generalitat with 4,732.56 euros (the cost of the trip plus interest). Apart from this case, Alay is being investigated in the Volhov case and was exonerated from the case for accompanying Puigdemont in his detention in Germany.