THE Catalan government has confirmed it will help 34 former officials cover fines of €5.4 million (£4.6m) for allegedly spending public funds promoting independence from their offices abroad.

Spain’s Court of Auditors has alleged that former officials, including one-time presidents and other top politicians, misused public money between 2011 and 2017 to advance the cause of the Catalan independence movement internationally.

A deadline for arrangements to be made to cover the bonds expires today and many of the accused faced having their property and other assets seized.

However, Catalan finance minister Jaume Giro yesterday announced, in something of a U-turn, that the government would help, and said the Catalan Institute of Finances (ICF), a government-controlled public institution, would act as guarantor.

This should protect the former officials from losing their homes.

Giro had initially been wary of involving the ICF in case its staff faced potential legal consequences for helping the accused.

However, he said yesterday the body had contacted him to express their willingness to help.

“They have asked that we try to use [this] additional provision as provided by decree law. And we will do that,” he said. The Catalan government, which is controlled by pro-independence parties, will now implement plans to set up a €10m (£8.6m) risk fund to cover fines such as those already imposed by the Court of Auditors.

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Some of Catalonia’s biggest political hitters are facing the hefty fines, but the biggest – €3.63m (£3.1m) – is levelled against Albert Royo, who led the public-private consortium Diplocat, which was charged with promoting Catalan interests abroad.

It included the Catalan government, regional and local authorities, trade unions, universities and FC Barcelona.

Artur Mas, a former Catalan president and Andreu Mas-Colell, a former finance minister, were fined €2.8m (£2.4m) for allegedly spending public cash between 2011 and 2016 on foreign trips and government office abroad.

Carles Puigdemont, the former president who is exiled in Belgium, and his former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, who was among the political prisoners recently pardoned, were fined €1.98m (£1.7m) for their time in office from 2016 to 2017, when Catalonia held an indyref – which Spain deemed illegal – and declared independence.

Mireia Vidal, who was auditor general of the Catalan government between 2011 and 2016, was fined €3.16m (£2.7m).

Former presidency minister Francesc Homs was fined €2.9m (£2.4m) and former foreign minister Raul Romeva €2.1m (£1.8m).

Diplocat and most Catalan government offices abroad were shut down when Spain declared them propaganda tools in autumn 2017, but they were reopened the following year when pro-indy parties regained control of the Barcelona parliament.

However the Court of Auditors wants former officials to repay hundreds of thousands of euros linked to government offices including delegations to the UK, US, France and Italy.

Giro said yesterday he had raised the issue of the ICF’s involvement with president Pere Aragones, and they had agreed it should go ahead, “with the generosity of the people of the ICF and the prudence that experience recommends”.

A separate Solidarity Fund has collected €1.2m (£1m) to help cover the bonds.