efe-epaMadrid / Barcelona

National Police have launched raids in northeast Spain that have led to the arrest on Thursday of 28 people on suspicion of being linked to the alleged rerouting of public funds to entities connected to an illegal pro-independence bid launched by Catalonia last year, officials said.

The large-scale operation launched 12 raids in Barcelona, Manresa, Olot, Tordera, Cabrils, Reus and other Catalan locations, the wealthy region's Superior Court of Justice said in a statement.

Salvador Esteve, former mayor of Martorell and a former president of an association of Catalan regional municipalities, was among the arrested for his alleged involvement in the rerouting.

Joan Carles García, mayor of Tordera, was also among those arrested, the court said.

Police searched the headquarters of several Catalan public institutions for evidence of the alleged rerouting of at least two million euros ($2.3 million) worth of funds that were allegedly diverted for secessionist causes.

An investigating magistrate has also been looking into irregular grants awarded between 2012 and 2015 to various entities and NGOs for development cooperation projects in Latin America, Morocco and Bosnia, among other countries.

Detainees are under investigation for alleged influence peddling, misappropriation of public funds, falsification of documents and fraud, sources close to the investigation told EFE.