Catalonia Calling! #19

Corruption in Spain - 30/1/2016

As there haven't been many developments in either Catalan or Spanish politics this week, I've decided to call Catalonia Calling #19 Corruption in Spain because three corruption cases have been in the news.

These have been a new corruption scandal in Valencia, the decision to declare the Bankia shares sold in 2011 as fraudulent and the fact that Princess Cristina of Borbón will stand in the dock in the Caso Noós.

As far as everything else goes, there's still no sign of a government forming in Madrid, Carles Puigdemont has started meetings with other political leaders in Catalonia, a right-wing anti-independence judge now heads the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Catalunya and the PP are going to press on with the anti-constitutional case against the Constituent Process commission.

So everything has been completely normal.





Corrupción en España

Before discussing the three cases in hand, I decided to do a quick Google search and not surprisingly there's a Wikipedia page called 'Corrupción en España'. If you understand Spanish here's the link "https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrupci%C3%B3n_en_Espa%C3%B1a".

I knew there had been a lot of corruption cases in the nearly 30 years I've been here but the when you look at the sheer number of scandals, it's still surprising. The page.

What's interesting is that there doesn't seem to be very much party bias when it comes to corruption. The Partido Popular and PSOE are involved in most scandals because they are the two traditional ruling parties both in central government and in the majority of autonomous communities. However, in the Basque Country and Catalonia, where PNV or Convergència i Unió and PSC have normally been in power, it is these parties that are involved. To me, this suggests that corruption is systematic and has become part of the political corruption so the only way to tackle it is by changing the system.

The Major Cases in Recent Years

The next thing I did was look for a graphic and this one, from El Confidencial, was the one I most liked. It's not fully up to date but shows the biggest corruption scandals in Spain since the return of democracy until 2014 so let's take a look at them one by one. Please remember that in English a billion is the same as a thousand million in Spanish so I will be using the two terms interchangeably.

Caso Malaya, which came to light in 2006, involved €500 million stolen and €674 laundered, which would be a whopping €2,812 million in today's money. It was centred around the urban planning department in Marbella, which was run by Juan Antonio Roca. So far 9 people have been accused, 52 have been found guilty.

Operación Edu came to light in 2014 and is still being investigated. When this graphic was published, the bill already ran at €2 billion and the scandal couls well end up beng Spain's biggest corruption case of all time.

Although it dates from 2001, the Caso de los ERE came to light in 2011 and involves €1,217 million of today's money, about €1.400 at the time. This is Andalucía once again the ERE are expedientes de regulación de empleo or employment regulation documents, which were falsified. So the Andalucía government was paying out subsidies to companies that didn't exist and pensions to people that didn't exist.

Caso Marbella in 2002 in €337.9 million in today's money involves the ex-mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yague.

Caso Gürtel involves the Partido Popular in Madrid and Valencia broke in 2009. The amount embezzled runs at €120 million so far and centres around businessman Francisco Correa and 17 PP politicians have been found to be involved, including President of the Valencian Generalitat. The current scandal involving Alfonso Rus could well be connected and it looks like former Mayor of Valencia, Rita Barberá, is also involved.

Caso Gescartera in 2001 involved €121 million* in dodgy share dealings. Caja Madrid Bolsa was ordered to reimburse €12 in 2012. Caja Madrid became Bankia, which was in the news again this week.

In the Caso Palma Arena in 2006 involving €72.6 million*, Jaume Matas, PP President of the Balearic Island amongst others, was found guilty of embezzlement in 2012.

Saqueo Marbella II in 2003 involved €52.3 million*. Marbella again.

Caso Bárcenas broke in 2013 involves €49 million according to the graphic but is more now. Partido Popular treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, ran the finances of the party completely fraudulently and distributed money to party members and businessmen in unmarked envelopes. It is connected to Caso Gürtel and directly affects members of the current government, who amazingly haven't resigned.

Caso Pretoria broke in 2009 but is still under investigation runs to €45 million by the e-socialist Mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, just outside Barcelona, and two high-ranking Convergència party members.

The first Saqueo Marbella I broke in 1999 and involved €36.8 million.

Caso Palau also broke 2009 and involves €35.8 million embezzled by Felix Millet from the Fundació del Palau de la Música-Orfeo Català in Barcelona. Convergència is involved once again.

Caso Roldán broke in 1998 and involved €15.4 million*. The central character was e-Director General of the Guardia Civiol Luis Roldán, who had embezled money that should have been spent on anti-terrorism by the Felipe González government between 1987 and 1993.

Caso Filesa was another PSOE scandal, which broke in 1990 and involved €15.1 million* spent on financial advice that was never given or received.

Caso Nóos first came to light in 2010 and involves the false contracts amounting to €5.9 million given to Princess Cristina's husband, Iñaki Urdangarín, and his partner Diego Torres. It's connected to the Caso Palma Arena and has been in the news again this week.

That's just part of the background to the problem. Let's look at what's been in the news this week.

New Corruption Scandal in Valencia

Alfonso Rus, ex-president of the Partido Popular in the Comunidad Valenciana and Mayor of Xàtiva, has been arrested along with 24 other people suspected of embezzling money from the public company Imelsa and others, including football club Olimpic de àtiva and the trade fair Mostra de Valencia. The case is connected to Caso Gürtel and more than likely Caso Bárcenas and is likely to involve even more high profile members of Partido Popular.

The fact that the scandal has come to light now is going make it even more difficult for Mariano Rajoy to find partners in PSOE or Ciudadanos to form a government and just shows that the PP in Valencia and Madrid is rotten to the core. In any other country, the whole party leadership would have resigned but in Spain everyone denies all knowledge even when the people involved are close associates.

Bankia Shares declared illegal

On July 28th 2011, Bankia, which had been bailed out by the government when it was Caja Madrid and re-branded, began selling its shares on the Spanish stock market. It was publicised by the company and the government as not only a surefire winner but also a patriotic investment. The photo shows Bankia president Rodrigo Rato, who is also a former PP Minister of the Economy and Director of the IMF, sounding the bell.

Shares originally sold for €3.50, I think. The shares plummetted immediately and an investment of €100 in 2011 is now worth just 50 cents, which meant that lots of ordinary people lost their savings. The floating of the shares has now been declared fraudulent and Bankia are obliged to pay back the investments, which in the long run will probably mean that Spanish taxpayers will end up paying back the money.

The network of corruption around Bankia/Caja Madrid and Rodrigo Rato is quite simply extraordinary. The bank gave out limitless credit cards to employees and associates, who ran up bills of thousands of euros a day on hotels, holidays, parties and prostitutes at the same time as the taxpayer was bailing the bank out.

Rato is being investigated for more alleged fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. A few years ago, a judge was accused of libel and forced to resign for having the gall to try to bring him to trial. The syatem protects those in power.

Case to Proceed against Princess Cristina

This week it was decided that Princess Cristina, King Felipe's sister, will stand in the accused dock alongside her husband Iñaki Urdangarín, Diego Torres and others in the Caso Noós.

She had claimed not to know anything about her husband's business dealings but as she's a financial advisor at the bank La Caixa and she could obviously see that Urdangarín was making ridiculous amounts of money, as the family benefitted, so the argument doesn't stand up.

I personally think that these people are the most pathetic individuals ever to have eisteed. To a certain extent, it's not surprising that politicians or business people are corrupt but when you belong to the royal family with all the advantages that entails, paid incidentally by her subjects, only the most stupid person would decide to get involved in something criminal.

Why does all this make me more in favour of Catalan independence?

I know there have been corruption scandals in Catalonia involving Convergència and PSC but I'm convinced that the only way to clean up Spain is by changing the system and making it more transparent and people more accountable. The fact that this has been going on for decades or even centuries means that the problem runs much deeper and cannot be solved by investigating individual corruption cases and prosecuting the guilty parties.

The system has to be changed and I don't believe that the Spanish political parties will ever do anything about it because they got too much to lose. This means that legislation will never get passed and as soon as another government is in power, the corruption scandals will start again.

I'm not disingenuous enough to think that Catalans are perfect but designing a completely new modern system for the Catalan Republic seems to be the only way. Especially, if the new country is being designed by experts, who aren't professional politicians and have no vested interests.

Anyway, that's what I think so Visca el Barça! Visca Catalunya! See you next week and look after yourselves.


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