The reform of embezzlement agreed on Monday between the PSOE and ERC leaves a way open for some pro-independence leaders to avoid prison. Specifically, around 30 defendants accused of the pro-Crime, still awaiting trial, could avoid prison with the new text.
These are the group of ex-officials and businessmen close to pro-independence supporters prosecuted by the 13th Court of Instruction of Barcelona for the preparations for the illegal referendum of 1 October 2017 (the so-called 1-O). Most of them were charged with embezzlement and, in some cases, with prevarication or false documentation.
Specifically, what would affect this group is the modification of article 433 of the Penal Code, in which the socialists and Esquerra intend to add a new offence that, for the first time, opens the door for an embezzler not to be sentenced to prison. The article is designed for those who divert state assets to “a public application other than that for which they were intended”.
For these cases, the text of the compromise amendment presents penalties of “disqualification from public employment or office for one to three years and a fine of three to twelve months” -that is, no prison sentence-, as long as the convicted person has not caused any “damage or serious hindrance to the service”. This reform only provides for imprisonment if “damage or serious hindrance to the service to which the money embezzled by the public official or authority was consigned” has been committed.
The Supreme Court sentenced Oriol Junqueras to 13 years in prison and the same amount of disqualification for the crime of sedition in medial concurrence with embezzlement; and the former ministers Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa, to 12 years, both in prison and disqualification.
All of them were pardoned, so the prison sentence will remain unchanged under the new law. But it is likely that the disqualification sentence will be reduced. As published by EL ESPAÑOL, the ERC leader could run in the Catalan elections of 2025 if the Supreme Court’s review of the procès-martial limits the sentence to embezzlement, after suppressing the crime of sedition, as the Government intends.
The next step must be taken by the Criminal Chamber of the High Court, which is due to meet shortly to analyse how this situation will affect the convictions for the organisation of the pro-independence referendum.