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ARA EXCLUSIVE

Objective: Find cases of corruption in Catalonia

Interior Ministry uses internal affairs, planning agents to create secret anti-fraud unit outside UDEF

Since 2012 the Spanish National Police have had a secret unit dedicated exclusively to searching for information on alleged irregularities and crimes committed by Catalan politicians, to be used against the pro-independence process. The Interior Minister officially denies its existence and only a few senior officials from the department led by Jorge Fernández Díaz know in detail what actions it carries out.

This newspaper has learnt that the members of this team conceal their true purpose by operating within two existing units: planning and strategy, and internal affairs. Two years ago they started working hard to collect and organize data about possible scandals involving Catalan politicians. This information would later be routed to the courts through other police units (such as the Tax and Fraud Unit, UDEF), or via the media, at key times in the independence process. Thus, their work remained hidden and beyond judicial control

The existence of this “anti-independence unit” was just a rumor until now. Madrid-based media had referred to it in some stories that praised the police for competing with the CNI, the Spanish secret service, in intelligence-gathering tasks. This newspaper has had access to a document that provides evidence of the existence of this group at the very heart of police headquarters. It is an announcement of a job vacancy in internal affairs, one of the units that feed the group created by the ministry of Jorge Fernández Díaz. The Internal Affairs unit should be dedicated to investigating possible misdeeds by other officers, but the job description states that “knowledge and/or experience” in the investigation of “organized crime, economic and tax crime, money laundering, etc.” would be “a plus” for applying inspectors. These skills are very different from those required until now by police investigating other police.

Job applicants who speak languages other than Spanish will score higher, with a specific mention of the “co-official languages of Spain”. It’s very peculiar that they should be seeking inspectors to investigate police in Galicia, the Basque Country, and Catalonia and who speak the languages of these regions in a police force that operates only in Spanish. In addition, the Spanish National Police have almost no presence in the Basque Country and Catalonia, as the responsibility for public security are devolved to the Ertzaintza and the Mossos (regional police forces), respectively.

Over thirty officers

The Strategic Planning and Coordination unit was created by Ignacio Cosidó soon after he was named director general of the Police when the PP came into office at the end of 2011. It is difficult to tell what its day-to-day functions are from the three paragraphs used to describe it in the public organizational chart of the National Police Force (CNP), as the terms used are generic --words like “prospective” or “coordination”. Some thirty officers work there, analyzing and elaborating information collected in Catalonia, obtained primarily by Internal Affairs officers. The group within Internal Affairs might have also been created in 2012, and might work outside of the two brigades that make up the unit. The characteristics and number of officers in this special unit for Catalan affairs is unknown, as management stopped providing the catalog of job descriptions for the unit precisely in 2014.

Internal Affairs is in the media spotlight right now due to the arrest of Little Nicolás1. Although the young man from the PP is not an agent, nor an official public employee-- a necessary condition for the intervention of Internal Affairs, according to police regulations--, it was this unit that detained him. When the media asked the Interior Minister about the matter, he said that the impersonations committed by the young man affected “State security”, and thus this unit was “ideal” for pursuing him.

According to sources within the Spanish police force, the creation of the secret unit was Commissioner Eugenio Pino’s responsibility. He is in charge of adjunct operations management, which is home to the two units that supply agents to the secret group. Pino is a police officer who has the full trust of Minister Fernández Díaz. The Commissioner helped in the design of the future police force when the PP was still in the opposition. Within the CNP and the ministry, two fixations of Pino are well known: the Guardia Civil-- with which he has a ongoing confrontation due to questions of jurisdiction-- and the Catalan process.

The Assistant Operations Director is responsible, to give an example, for the untimely assignment of hundreds of riot police to Catalonia in the days leading up to 9N. He is also behind the militarization of the Police, with a change of insignia, military chants, and salute. His right hand is Marcelino Martin Blas-Aranda, Commissioner in charge of Internal Affairs.

Ending on the front page of El Mundo

The acceleration of the Catalan independence process has been paralleled by news about alleged cases of corruption tied to nationalist politicians or those around them. Some, hidden until a few years ago, are based on strong evidence and are being investigated by the National Court-- Jordi Pujol Ferrusola and his brother Oleguer-- or by a Barcelona court, as in the case of ex-president Jordi Pujol’s inheritance, which went undeclared for three decades. Other cases, however, only make it as far as the front page of El Mundo, the media outlet chosen for the leaks: the alleged Swiss accounts of Mas’ father or Pujol; or more recently, the business of Artur Mas with the Pujols in Liechtenstein, or a bank account attributed to Xavier Trias, mayor of Barcelona. These stories were leaked coinciding with elections or at critical points in the process.

A special group without judicial oversight

The Criminal Procedure Act (Lecrim) and various rulings by the Constitutional and Supreme Courts prohibit prospective police investigations --that is, investigations where a target is chosen and then “fishing” is used to look for evidence. Article 284 of Lecrim establishes that “as soon as police officers become aware of a public offense, or are required to take part in the instruction of proceedings arising from a crime involving private individuals, they must alert the judicial authority or the prosecutor’s office, if they can do so without ceasing in the practice of their duties”. In addition, Article 5 of the law of State security forces states that officers must act in their functions “with absolute political neutrality and impartiality”.

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