Corruption scandal in Spanish Government

Original source:
February 2, 2013 · by Fabián Plaza Miranda · in ,

A huge corruption scandal has erupted in the Spanish Government.It has important implications since it involves the Partido Popular (People’s Party, the leading political party in Spain), several Ministers and even the current Prime Minister, Mr. Mariano Rajoy.

It all began in 2007, when a police investigation ordered by Judge Baltasar Garzón ended up with five suspects detained in 2009. They were accused of bribery, money laundering and tax evasion, all of it affecting members of the People’s Party or  public contracts that were -allegedly- awarded without following the proper legal procedures. The name of this operation was “Gürtel”, and its judicial path is still on going.

Some days ago, the Spanish newspaper “El Mundo” published in an article that Mr. Luis Bárcenas (who was treasurer of the People’s Party for 20 years) had been regularly giving envelopes with money to prominent members of the party. These amounts of money, according to “El Mundo”, were never declared and could have originated in illegal commissions paid in exchange for public contracts. At the same time, “El Mundo” reported that Mr. Bárcenas had a secret Swiss bank account with 22 million euros (which had not been declared to Spanish fiscal authorities either). All this money might be linked -always according to “El Mundo”- to payments in the “Gürtel” case.

A hidden accountancy in the Government?

If this information was already shocking, the scandal has just reached another level. A different Spanish newspaper, “El País”, has recently published what could be the “occult books” in the Bárcenas scandal. Apparently, the journal has adquired a copy of the illegal accountancy records of the People’s Party, all handwritten by Mr. Bárcenas. If this was true, then the information provided by “El Mundo” would have gained more credibility.

But there’s something even more important. In the copy of books published by “El País”, some important names appear. They include critical members of the Spanish Government, such as Dolores de Cospedal -Secretary-General of the People’s Party-, Rodrigo Rato -who was Minister of Economy and Managing Director of the IMF-, Jaime Mayor Oreja -who was Minister of Interior-, Francisco Álvarez Cascos -who was Vicepresident of the Government-, Javier Arenas -former Minister of Labour- and Ángel Acebes -who was Minister of Justice.

However, the most important name in the list is this: Mr. Mariano Rajoy Brey, nothing less than the current Prime Minister of Spain.

Should all of this be true, it could very well mean a direct hit to the Spanish Government, including the need for new general elections. People are becoming increasingly upset; as a petition, an initiative in, has managed to get over 350.000 signatures asking for the resignation of the Government… and it has been managed in less than 24 hours.

The People’s Party quickly denied all accusations -even if Mr. Rajoy himself has made no official statement- and has said that the documents are false. However, some individuals included in the list have already admitted it to be true, and have confirmed the validity of the amounts shown, at least in what concerns them. The first one to declare so was Mr. Pío García Escudero, the President of the Spanish Senate.

Some important considerations on this case:

– “El Mundo” and “El País” are rivals with totally opposite ideologies. The former is right-wing and the latter is more on the left-wing of the political spectrum. Therefore, it’s significant that both newspapers are basically saying the same.

– The People’s Party has been cutting social welfare expenses in Spain, to the point that unemployment subsidies have been reduced, medical centers have been closed, public services have been diminished, and a new labour legislation has been created (one that allows for quick and cheap layoffs). If these accusations were true, citizens would not accept the new social cuts that the Government was planning.

– Some of the “donors” in this scandal are also indicted in the “Gürtel” affair.

– Several months ago, the People’s Party created a “tax amnesty” for Spaniards who hadn’t declared in their taxes important amounts of money. Mr. Bárcenas has just declared that he used this amnesty on 11 million euros. Some journalists suggest that the amnesty was created precisely to benefit people like him.

– Another corruption scandal (the “Nóos Case“, involving the Spanish King’s son-in-law, Mr. Iñaki Urdangarín) has links to one of the members in the “Gürtel/Bárcenas” affair. For example, the name of Mr. Jaume Matas -President of the Balearic Islands- has appeared in both cases.

– Judge Baltasar Garzón, known for his fight against corruption and current lawyer of Mr. Julian Assange, was accused by the People’s Party of illegal wiretrapping during the “Gürtel” case. He was declared guilty and was expelled from the Spanish judiciary.

– The People’s Party is currently drafting a so-called “transparency law” (since Spain lacks one). In theory, this law would prevent corruption. However, the law has been critizised because it appears to be focused on the opposite: opacity. As an example, political parties won’t have to obey this law, nor will for example the Royal Family, and the Government will have many loopholes to prevent any giving of information (the most significant is what’s called “administrative silence”, meaning that any public administration can answer any request of information… by not answering it). The Bárcenas case may have an impact on this law.

All this scandal makes clear that the Spanish legal system needs a wide reform. And as the Pirate movement calls for more transparency and an open Government, this could become an important opportunity for the Spanish Pirates.

 Featured image: by   Corelinn CC BY-NC-SA