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The Catalan spy game

Claims that dozens of secret dossiers on Catalan politicians and their financial affairs are being circulated for sale to the highest bidder have provoked panic.


La Camarga restaurant in Barcelona.

A menu of intrigue and espionage: La Camarga restaurant in Barcelona.

Earlier this week police took action on a political scandal that had broken several days before, when Catalan newspaper El Periódico published a recording and transcripts of a conversation between Catalan Partido Popular leader Alicia Sánchez-Camacho and María Victoria Álvarez, ex-girlfriend of Jordi Pujol Ferrusola, a Catalan businessman and son of former Catalan premier Jordi Pujol. The Pujol clan, an historic dynasty in the leading Catalan party Convergència Democrática de Catalunya, is presently caught up in a maelstrom of accusations of financial wrongdoing.

Jordi Jr’s brother, CiU parliamentary leader Oriol Pujol, is embroiled in his own personal scandal, over alleged kickbacks in awarding the motor vehicle inspection concession.

But this particular recording concerned allegations by Jordi Jr’s ex-lover that together they transported thousands of euros to Andorra to deposit in an offshore account. It was revealed that the supposedly private conversation was recorded at Barcelona’s swanky La Camarga restaurant, by private eyes from detective agency Método 3, using a secret microphone hidden in the centrepiece vase of flowers. Sánchez Camacho soon confirmed the authenticity of the recorded conversation, and announced a lawsuit against the agency for invasion of privacy.

Quickly the allegations widened – not only was the PP’s Sánchez-Camacho, and by implication the Pujol family, being dogged by private eyes following their every move. Leading figures of all parties in Catalonia were under investigation by the same spies. Some reports stated that the secret dossiers were commissioned by the present CiU government of Catalonia, or by their predecessors, the Socialist-Catalanist-Green coalition known as the Tripartit. Yet others alleged that the spies were paid by the Catalan Socialist Party.

Judging from the fact that Método 3 has an acknowledged total of 20,000 files on individuals in Spanish business and politics, all reports could be true, with the agency working for all parties against each other. Rumours arose that dozens of such reports were being circulated for bidding from media outlets and prominent blackmail victims.

Then the ripples spread wider still. It was alleged that the very same Método 3 spy team had recorded Interior Minister José Fernández Díaz, along with senior ministry officials and police officers, at a high level state security meeting at the same Barcelona restaurant using the very same bugged vase of flowers.

Other reports stated that Spain’s secret intelligence bureau, the CNI, had contracted dossiers on Spanish politicians from the Madrid office of the Método 3 group. Agency boss Francisco “Paco” Marco stated that his sacked Madrid office manager Antonio Tamarit had demanded €200,000 in blackmail; otherwise he would fabricate M3 reports to discredit the group and its political clients. PP deputy leader María Dolores de Cospedal and her husband were rumoured as blackmail targets, reportedly due to her husband’s business dealings with Método 3.

Now the political paranoia became widespread. “It’s as if the whole country needs counselling… full of people in a state of delirium, suffering paranoiac mania, hallucinating persecution fantasies,” said veteran journalist Iñaki Gabilondo of a Spanish political class already rendered hysterical by other political scandals.

Shredded documents

On Monday the founder of the agency and three of his senior detectives were arrested and their homes and business premises searched in Barcelona and Madrid. Método 3 boss Marco said that there was no point in conducting a search as all secret documents had been shredded. But most continue to believe that the dossiers are still out there. In any case, the police took 10 vans worth of documents away to examine.

Meanwhile, arrested Método 3 detectives Julián Peribañez and Alex Borrequero said they performed the bugging of Jordi Pujol Jr’s ex with Sánchez-Camacho’s knowledge under the orders of the boss Marco.

Will anything come of this in terms of political or judicial accountability? The answer, as always in relation to Spanish judicial affairs, is: maybe, if you wait long enough. Aside from the civil suit filed by Sánchez-Camacho against the detectives, there is no indication that any criminal charges will be heard in court. Magistrates and police squads in Barcelona and Madrid both claim primacy.

On Wednesday, Catalan vice-premier Joana Ortega made a complaint to the police that she was a victim of espionage in an attempt to get the courts to agree jurisdiction between Catalan and Spanish authorities. It would be ironic indeed if the investigation came back to haunt her own Convergència party.

Santi Ribas, a Barcelona lawyer with experience in lawsuits for privacy violations consulted by Iberosphere, suggests five years is a minimum waiting time for resolution of such a case, and criminal prosecutions are almost unheard of. A special team of investigators from the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police, has been formed to ferret out the rumoured secret dossiers. Their mission, according to some, is to suppress the files, not reveal them to the authorities. Until there is a great bonfire of the Método 3 dossiers, few politicians in Catalonia and beyond will be free of paranoia.

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Published: Feb 21 2013
Category: Politics, Featured, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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3 Comments for “The Catalan spy game”

  1. UPDATE 23/2/2013

    The investigative magazine El Triangle has obtained access to a list of 169 reports prepared by Método 3.

    At first sight the most explosive report doesn’t concern Catalan or Spanish figures. It is the 2012 report into the “possible rape committed by Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud”.

    This appears to refer to a case of rape allegedly committed by the Saudi prince in Ibiza in 2008, which was dropped by the Spanish justice system in April 2012, after the prince appealed to King Juan Carlos and PM Zapatero throughout 2011.
    The king sent a note to the prince congratulating him on clearing his name.
    Why then were the M3 detectives investigating the case after it was closed?

    Readers might to check to see whether they have been under investigation, as several foreign citizens and businesses have been spied on by M3.

    • “Readers might to check to see whether they have been under investigation, as several foreign citizens and businesses have been spied on by M3.”

      I reckon you don’t say that seriously, for I understand that paranoia is not your business. So: nice one, dude.

      The real fun is that we will spend months reading what the press, helped by anonymous sources, presents us with out of this wealth of material.

      Catalan premier Artur Mas is already sure that this is part of a mudslinging campaign against his “process” towards independence (with due involvement of Spanish intelligence services), while the first political victim seems to be his very own Director of Correctional Facilities Xavier Martorell, who is about to leave some of his party posts after having been alleged to have ordered the spying on fellow partyman and “conseller” (Catalan regional minister) Felip Puig.

      As I said, lots of fun.

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