Spain’s audit office orders former Catalan leaders to pay €4.9mn over symbolic vote

Spain’s audit office orders former Catalan leaders to pay €4.9mn over symbolic vote

A Spanish audit office has ordered former Catalan leader Artur Mas and nine others to repay €4.9 million ($5.5 million) of public money spent on a non-binding independence ballot in 2014. The 2014 vote was a symbolic ballot by pro-independence campaigners that was declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. That ballot came three years before Mas’ successor Carles Puigdemont held an independence vote last year. The informal ballot was held after the government blocked a more formal vote which Catalan leaders had been pushing for. Some 80 percent of around 2.2 million voters backed secession, much higher than the usual roughly 50-50 split amongst Catalans on independence. The ruling comes shortly before Spain’s Supreme Court begins the trials of nine leaders of the independence movement in which prosecutors are seeking up to 25 years on rebellion charges, Reuters said.