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Police arrest Catalan politicians on corruption charges

Separatists say detentions are politically motivated

Police arrest Catalan politicians on corruption charges File photo

Alyssa McMurtry

MADRID (AA) - Spanish police raided dozens of offices and arrested around 20 people in an investigation into an alleged corruption scheme in Catalonia on Thursday.

The raids and arrests are related to the so-called “three percent scheme,” in which politicians from the Catalan nationalist Convergencia Party allegedly received systematic bribes in exchange for granting public contracts.

Convergencia existed until 2016 when it merged into the leading separatist coalition, Together for Yes, which promises Catalan independence from Spain.

Included in the arrests are the former deputy mayor of Barcelona, the president of the Port of Barcelona, businessmen and other Convergencia politicians. They are being investigated for crimes such as bribery, money laundering and influence peddling.

However, some Catalan officials said the arrests and raids were political -- that they have less to do with corruption and more to do with the Spanish state opposing their independence project.

“An operation exists against Catalonia to intoxicate or sully the honor of certain Catalan politicians,” said Neus Munte, spokesperson for the Catalan Parliament, at a news conference in Barcelona on Thursday.

Juan Ignacio Zoido, Spain’s interior minister, denied the link, telling reporters on Thursday: “It has nothing to do with a political decision… it’s a judicial decision.”

On Wednesday, the Catalan government stirred the pot again when President Carles Puigdemont told a group of diplomats that an independence referendum would be held by September at the latest.

Madrid insists that a referendum on Catalan independence is unconstitutional.

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