The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) has sentenced the leader of Junts, Laura Borràs, to four years in prison and 13 years of disqualification for having divided contracts of the Institution of Catalan Letters (ILC) to benefit her friend Isaías H. Nevertheless, the magistrates demand a partial pardon for Borràs with the sole objective of not having to go to prison (something that does not save her from being removed from public office). Borràs has charged against the judges and called their sentence “execrable”.
Laura Borràs’s friend incriminates her before the judge: “We agreed to divide the work into several contracts”
In the opinion of the magistrates, Borràs’s entry into prison “is not necessary to prevent the future commission of new crimes.” In other words: being disqualified from managing public money for 13 years and paying a fine of 36,000 euros is sufficient criminal reproach for the leader of Junts. The pardon petition will not be processed for several months, once the Supreme Court issues its final ruling.
Beyond the unexpected request for pardon, the magistrates have no doubts: Borràs “fictitiously divided” 18 contracts for ILC computer work between 2013 and 2017 and hand-picked them to Isaías H. “with full awareness of despising and doing without the most elementary requirements of administrative contracting”. His objective: to benefit his friend and avoid the controls of the Generalitat’s Intervention. The sentence can be consulted at the end of this information.
To convict Borràs, the magistrates rely on various pieces of evidence: the revealing emails that Borràs and Isaías H. exchanged, in which the Junts leader wrote “the question is to divide”; the testimonies of former ILC workers who criticized Borràs’ “irregularities”; and the audios that the Junts leader sent to one of her officials to ask about the files. In addition, the other two defendants, Andreu P. and Isaías H., confessed and incriminated Borràs in exchange for a reduced sentence.
The sentence imposes two years in prison for Isaías H. and one year and two months for Andreu P., who volunteered to make false invoices to cover up the irregularities, both as necessary collaborators in the crime of documentary falsification, a sentence that will be suspended. so they don’t go to jail.
The court has ruled out the six violations of fundamental rights alleged by Borràs, who has announced that he will appeal the sentence before the Supreme Court and has avoided ruling on the request for pardon included in the sentence. The resolution has a particular vote in which magistrate María Jesús Manzano proposes to sentence Borràs to a maximum of 21 months in prison given the “disproportionate and excessive” prison sentence decided by the president of the TSJC, Jesús María Barrientos, and the magistrate Fernando Lacaba.
The reason for the pardon request
The request for partial pardon made by the TSJC, advanced by El Món, is included in the Penal Code. In its article 4.3, the norm allows judges to ask the Government to grant the measure of grace when the penalty is “significantly excessive” in comparison with the harm caused by the criminal conduct.
That is what, in the opinion of the Civil and Criminal Chamber of the TSJC, has happened with Borràs: the court concludes that the Junts leader arranged with her friend Isaías H. to hand-pick her ILC contracts that should have been conveyed with a public contest. Both agreed to make three false invoices to mask that there were three offers when in fact it was already decided that Borràs would entrust the work to Isaías H.
However, as Isaías H. ended up effectively creating the websites for the ILC and Borràs did not take a euro into his pocket, the court has chosen to ask the Government for a partial pardon for the Junts leader to save him from going to prison.
By convicting her of prevarication and document falsification in a public document – the awards by hand to Isaías H. – and commercial – the false invoices sent to the ILC to simulate three offers –, the minimum sentence to be imposed on Borràs for this second offense is four years and a half in prison – the Prosecutor’s Office asked him for six – but the court understands that it is a “disproportionate and excessive sentence for the reality that underlies the behavior” of Borràs.
The Chamber points out that the corruption of Borràs and Isaías H. did not cause “financial damage” to the ILC and that both convicted persons did not seek to enrich themselves, but only “mask” the “initial prevaricating conduct” with false invoices before the intervention of the Generalitat. that is, the decision to award contracts to computer scientists by hand.
Borras tilde the sentence of “execrable”
The trial evidenced the growing isolation of Borràs in Catalan politics. Junts’ support was based on circumstances: a small rally of support was held on the first day and some leaders went to the hearing room of the TSJC in the last session of the trial. The moderate sector of Junts –former councilors, the mayor Xavier Trias…–, confronted with Borràs, was absent from the protest.
This Thursday, Borràs has been supported by the entire Junts parliamentary group. “It is an execrable sentence, a judicial and democratic aberration,” Borràs stated in a statement without questions from the press before Parliament. In addition to attacking the judges, Borràs has criticized, as she already did when she was suspended as president of the Parliament, the rest of the political parties in the Chamber: “I invite you to reflect on whether anything goes and if the effects of the Spanish repression against the independence movement”. The opposition has already returned to demand her resignation. The next chapter of the Borràs case will be settled before the Central Electoral Board (JEC), which could already leave Borràs without a seat.