3 de septiembre de 2021
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Josep Lluís Alay’s phone may have many answers to clarify some keys to the Catalan independence process. His trips to Moscow, his relations with alleged Kremlin spies and the activation of protests in the streets of Catalonia shortly after his visits to Russia are a cocktail that, at the very least, has raised suspicions in the intelligence services.
But who is Alay? Josep Lluís Alay was head of the office of Carles Puigdemont, the now exiled – according to him – or fled – according to Spain – former president of the Catalan government. Puigdemont set in motion the referendum of October 1, 2017 in which the independence of Catalonia was voted. A referendum considered illegal by the Justice, which ended with the application by the central Government – at the head of which was then Mariano Rajoy – of Article 155 of the Constitution that allows to “freeze” the autonomy of a regional Government, a trial that led to jail to much of the ringleaders of the procés – as the Catalans call the pro-independence process – and with Puigdemont fugado to Brussels.
A report of the Civil Guard revealed by El Periódico and that part The New York Times attributes to the ‘European intelligence’ place Alay in the orbit of Russian espionage. Alay traveled to Moscow in 2019 to allegedly seek support for secessionist interests, according to these reports.
He denies it, says he has nothing to do with Vladimir Putin’s secret services and that these lucubrations are nothing more than “a ‘fantasy story’ created by Madrid,” according to The New York Times. In other words, it is the Spanish government that is creating these stories.
What would be Alay’s link with the Russian secret services according to these reports? In addition to the trips to Moscow and some meetings at the highest level, the report of the Civil Guard sent to the judge of Barcelona Joaquín Aguirre – who investigates the alleged financing of the procés – highlights the relationship of the former head of Puigdemont’s office with the Russian businessman Alexander Dmitrenko.
The State has denied Dmitrenko Spanish nationality for the simple reason that it linked him at the time with the Kremlin’s espionage services In a statement to El Periódico, Dmitrenko is categorical: “I am not a Russian spy”. The media quotes an adviser to this businessman who warns that he does not even have a “criminal record”.
The request for nationality was made more than three years ago, and the Spanish authorities considered that there is a “proven knowledge” of his “conscious” tasks for “Russian intelligence services, from which he receives missions”. Even, according to the cited media, in the denial of nationality it was specified that they had “detected contacts of this individual with some of the main leaders of transnational organized crime of Russian origin, for whom they also carry out different tasks”.
The Russian businessman blames it all on a misunderstanding and a possible collaboration of his, some time ago, with the Russian Prosecutor’s Office.
The Civil Guard had access to Alay’s mobile phone after he was arrested in October 2020 within the so-called Operation Voloh. This is the case that the aforementioned judge in Barcelona opened to find out where the funding to supporters of independence came from.
In the mobile phone there are messages between Alay and Dmitrenko about gas business between Russian and Chinese companies. Also details, according to the same media, of the movements of Dmitrenko to be appointed ambassador of the Chamber of Commerce of Barcelona.
The report on Alay and his possible relations with Russia has been elaborated by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Bellingcat. According to the data collected there, the Russian businessman “has been integrated into Puigdemont’s circle”.
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Both Alay and Puigdemont have acknowledged to The New York Times their trips to Moscow, but they dissociate it from the process. However, the American media explains that some of the officials with whom Alay met have participated in the so-called hybrid war of Russia against the West. A strategy that consists of using propaganda, fake news, financing and extremist groups within the target countries to create destabilization.
After Alay’s visit to Moscow, according to the information, there were riots and pro-independence demonstrations in Barcelona known as the Democratic Tsunami. According to a report by the Guardia Civil, Alay participated in the creation of this movement, according to the aforementioned media.
Alay’s messages confirm close relations with Russia. One of them, sent to Puigdemont on August 23, 2020, reads: “I’m thinking a lot about Russia. And these days everything is very complicated”.
Weeks after the illegal referendum of October 1, 2017, some information began to emerge that spoke of Russian involvement in the independence movement. So much so that the Spanish government itself acknowledged that a Russian intelligence group had been in Catalonia on the dates of the consultation in ballot boxes.
The intelligence report cited by the New York Times, a 10-page memo, would indicate that Alay and Dmitrenko sought help in Russia: financing in financial, energy and telecommunications sectors.
One of the clues to Alay’s alleged ties to Russian espionage can be found in one of the messages on his cell phone. It reads: “We are working for The Americans”. That is, a TV show about Russian secret service employees working as moles in the United States.
This series is inspired by a married couple of Russian spies, whom Alay would have contacted on one of his trips.