Fèlix Millet died yesterday, at the age of 87, in the residence where he spent the last weeks of his life, with medical assistance. Far from the red carpets that for years were spread in his path and serving a sentence for a scandal that shook Catalan society: the looting of the Fundació Orfeó Català-Palau de la Música Catalana, which he presided over for 19 years (from 1990 to 2009).
Since November, Millet enjoyed the third degree of penitentiary due to incurable disease. The Barcelona Court sentenced him in 2018 to nine years and eight months in prison for diverting 23 million euros from the Palau, with his right-hand man, Jordi Montull. He went to prison in June 2020, when the Supreme Court confirmed his prison sentence.
The other sentence, that of the last name, that of the withdrawn greetings, that of the void left by the society that had idolized him, this one began to be fulfilled on July 23, 2009, when he left the Palau de the Music, through the back door, to avoid the television cameras. The Mossos d'Esquadra entered the modernist building on Via Laietana that houses the musical organization that morning.
The investigation began when the Tax Agency detected the circulation of numerous 500 euro bills from the Fundació Orfeó Català, a non-profit cultural entity. During the search, the agents discovered documents in Millet's safe that referred to a safe deposit box in a bank: there he kept 1.8 million in 500 notes, a part of the loot in cash.
The judge in the Palau case condemned Millet, Montull, and the latter's daughter, Gemma Montull, as the main ones responsible, and ordered them to return the 23 million to the entity, half of which has been recovered. The sentence also found that Millet and Montull organized a system by which Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) collected 6.6 million euros in illegal commissions from the construction company Ferrovial, through the Palau, in exchange for award him a public work.
A distinguished member of the Catalan bourgeoisie, for years Millet was considered a cultural patron and promoter. The fourth of five siblings, his family had made a fortune in the textile sector and was one of the most influential in Catalan cultural life. His great-uncle, Lluís Millet, was co-founder of the Orfeó Català. Business went hand in hand with cultural concerns. Millet worked in Africa, in a family company that exploited coffee and cocoa plantations, and in 1963 he returned to Barcelona and joined the Orfeó Català. His last name was the best business card, but his ability as a manager and the ability to get donations opened many doors for him. Over the years, he accumulated positions at the Barça Foundation, the Caixa, the Liceu, the Pau Casals Foundation and the Agrupació Mútua Foundation, among others. Social recognition went in parallel, he received the Key of Barcelona and the Cross of Sant Jordi.
Among the merits attributed to Fèlix Millet was refloating the Palau de la Música, which was in a dilapidated state at the beginning of the eighties. First he convinced the Catalan administrations to pay for its restoration. Two decades later, in a more ambitious work, the Spanish government participated. In 2003, Millet joined the board of trustees of the Institut Catalunya Futur, the Catalan section of the FAES of José María Aznar, then president of the executive, and obtained from the Ministry of Culture 12.6 million of the 26 that cost the extension of the Palace. A subsequent audit revealed that the works cost 16 million and the other 10 would have been diverted by Millet and Montull.
No one seemed to suspect anything in his high standard of living, and although in 2002 an anonymous complaint alerted the Treasury to the "high degree of corruption" at the Palau de la Música, and also the Audit Office detected anomalies in the management of Millet, for years no one looked at it.
With this impunity, for years he used the money that came to the musical entity as if it were his own, for personal expenses, as the judicial investigation proved. He paid for trips and vacations, works on his houses, made expensive purchases and collected checks from the institution for his expenses. The money left the Palace in envelopes to pay for any whim of the family. Black payments were the norm.
During the investigation, the episode of the weddings of Millet's daughters came to light, which he celebrated in the Palau de la Música with magnificence. The bill of more than 80,000 euros for his daughter Clara's wedding was paid by Orfeó Català, but half was charged to the groom's parents.
Two months after the Palau scandal broke out, advised by his lawyer, Millet sent the judge investigating his management a letter in which he confessed to having diverted 3.3 million for his own benefit and that of Montull. With this he was able to avoid prison.
However, as revealed by Pat Millet, his sister, now dead, after uncovering the scandal and experiencing firsthand the fate of the fallen in disgrace, Fèlix Millet consumed the days before going to prison without more to make him smoke cigarettes and repeat that he wanted to die.