Following last week’s revelation that the forest fires in Horta de Sant Joan last July had been set intentionally rather than caused by a lightning strike, which was given as the official explanation, it now appears that the chief fireman was unavailable at a crucial moment of the crisis (article in Castilian, La Vanguardia). The Generalitat’s Interior Minister, Joan Saura, said in a radio interview this morning that the man in charge of the firefighters didn’t respond to repeated calls for instructions from different firemen trying to fight the fires, because he had gone to help in the rescue of a group of people from a house threatened by flames. Saura was responding to questions over the fact that this news was published yesterday in La Vanguardia but he hadn’t mentioned it during an appearance before the Catalan parliament regarding the case. The minister also insisted that, despite the absence of the person responsible for the operation to deal with the fires, the campaign to stop them always followed a direction and was constantly coordinated. Five firemen died during the forest fires and one was seriously injured.
Daniel Sánchez Llibre, the president of RCD Espanyol football club, has been accused of suspected tax fraud (article in Castilian, La Vanguardia). The revelation, published today in the newspaper Público, has come as part of the ongoing Operation Pretoria, which last year saw the arrest of various politicians from the town of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and former high-ranking officials from the government of one-time Generalitat president, Jordi Pujol. According to the story, the National Fraud Investigation Office has discovered that Espanyol was amongst the clients of the law firm Pretus, which has been accused of producing false invoices as a way to launder money. It is thought that Pretus could have issued fake invoices to Espanyol worth up to €300,000 in the name of a company based in the tax haven of Madeira.
There were less road accidents in Barcelona last year, but the number of people who died in such accidents increased (article in Catalan, Avui). Forty people lost their lives in road accidents in 2009, a rise of almost 30 percent from 2008, and included 20 motorcyclists and 16 pedestrians; of the latter group, the majority were people aged 65 and over. There were 9,760 accidents recorded on the streets of Barcelona throughout the year, which was 129 less than in 2008. The authorities are particularly concerned with the high level of mortality amongst motorcyclists; the councillor in charge of Mobility for Barcelona, Francesc Narváez, said that one reason for the high incidence of accidents in that group was that around 38 percent of those who ride mopeds and motorbikes here are car drivers who haven’t had to take any exam about how to ride a two-wheeled vehicle. In the case of pedestrians, the main motives for accidents are crossing the road away from designated crossings and not paying attention to traffic lights.
Also in the news: Spanish congress wants apology from US for use of politician’s image to make Bin Laden photofit (El Periodico); Delay in identifying places to harness wind power in Catalunya (La Vanguardia); Spanish town criticised for similar policy to Vic in blocking registration of illegal immigrants (Avui)