In June 2019, the Supplemental “Chronicle” The newspaper El Mundo published a report on the judicial investigation Alleged grant fraud Comes from Moroccan state organisms.
According to the article, money was not intended for the established purpose, But it was transferred to personal accounts of “spies” or people related to Moroccan intelligence. Further, it also pointed out that “ghost companies” were created to “launder money”.
“Front” Company and “Shell Company”
Throughout the report, A travel agency Located in Mataró and created by three female partners. In the article, the company was accused of being a “ghost” and made up Inappropriate manipulation of money Considering that they were issued Some incorrect invoices To the value of 50,000 euros, all in one day.
The three female members are the wives of the Secretary General of the Moroccan Community Council Abroad, the President of the Union of Islamic Cultural Centers of Catalonia (UCCIC) and the Executive and Documentation of the Moroccan Secret Service of the General Directorate of Studies Abroad (DGED).
This news was headlined: “The ‘cover women’ of the Moroccan spy business in Spain”. And, as a subtitle: “Judicial investigation puts the face of a millionaire in subsidies that Morocco sends to its communities in Spain but that are laundered into the pockets of its spies.”
The information was accompanied by a photograph showing the location of the company and its logo.
Two million euros
In addition, the information material also explained that the president of the UCCIC received a subsidy of more than two million euros a year from the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Affairs, but, instead, “The money was diverted to his bank account, his wife’s and a travel agency.”
After verifying these facts it was brought to the attention of the court that “practically all the money it received as subsidy was not appropriated for the purposes set out in its legislation”.
Therefore, corresponding criminal proceedings were initiated to investigate the incidents President of UCCIC and his wife.
Violation of the right to dignity
But the travel agency condemned the newspaper El Mundo and its editor, saying that, as a company, its right to dignity had been violated. The allegations were false.
The fact is that, first, although the Court of First Instance rejected the claim, the Provincial Court of Barcelona considered that there was a Unlawful interference with honor. For this reason, he has condemned the company jointly with the newspaper 1 euroRetract news and publish a new one both on paper and digitally about the sentence.
In a statement of claim, the travel agency described as “false” statements received in the news about a “ghost company” used as a cover to divert money UCCIC received from the Moroccan government. In which he adds that it is also false that invoices of 50,000 euros were issued, hence the statements violate his honor and reputation.
El Mundo, on the other hand, explained that in its allegation brief No such crime was committed Because the right to freedom of information prevailed. It maintains that expressions meet the requirements of public relevance, informative interest, and truthfulness.
This demand came first Court of First Instance No. 8 of Mataró, But he rejected the appeal and acquitted El Mundo, saying, “Although the data in the news is inaccurate, the information is completely true.” To this the court added that the journalist contradicted the data with documents which are part of the judicial process and with sources.
News is not analyzed individually
Dissatisfied with the sentence, they filed an appeal Provincial Court of Barcelona.
Consider recurring company news Analyzed globally Y Not individually examined In statements that refer to travel agencies, it is concluded that, from that perspective, the certified data appears to be fairly contradictory. Similarly, it also states that the author of the information should be required “Neutral Reporting”.
A company has its own legal personality
In its resolution, the Provincial Court of Barcelona reports that, however It is true that there are personal and professional relationships Between the company’s partners and those receiving subsidies from Morocco, the applicant It has its own legal personality. Therefore, it held that those relationships “do not justify by themselves that the same alleged criminal acts of the aforementioned persons can be attributed to the plaintiff company.”
Further, the judgment states that the phrases used as “Ghost Company, Center of Cover, Espionage and Corruption Conspiracy” That the article is removed from the status of partner of the wife of the president of UCCIC and the fact that she issued “false invoices” to the value of 50,000 euros, Don’t justify grades Received by the company in a newspaper article. He points out that they are “very serious allegations that, in any case, should be properly contradicted.”
The company was not listed in the investigation
And, with regard to the journalist’s work in contradicting the news, the Provincial Court highlights that, first of all, in the criminal proceedings before the Igualada investigative court, The company was not listed as an investigation is underway. And, secondly, there is an expert report provided by the prosecutor in which it is explained that the invoice is not 50,000 euros, but 3,915, a fact that, according to the judgment, “There was a misrepresentation by the informant When modifying data appearing in a referenced report”.
To this he adds that the invoices have been issued on the same date, Not enough reason to qualify a company as a “ghost”. and center of corruption conspiracy”. The Court held that it is the journalist’s responsibility, in cases where the presumption of innocence may be compromised, to modify the data in a relevant manner from the sources obtained without it being admissible in the information provided.
On the other hand, it also considers that the article goes beyond providing information that, being true, presents unnecessary evaluations and expressions regarding the travel agency.