More than 20 cases of corruption have been judged in Spain since 2005. In fact, today, in Spain, it would be difficult to find a political party not accused, to some degree, of fraud or influence peddling.
When people ask why Spain is in crisis, the obvious answer is that Spaniards have been living and spending money well above the country’s capacity for economic growth. You see we have, for a long time, been punching above our weight. We thought that we, as a country, could live above our possibilities and our leaders thought it too. Moreover, some of our politicians believed to be above the law, disregarding the consequences of their action and generally feeling as if nothing would happen to them if they took money from the public coffers. Justice is now taking away their masks and privileges.
In this recent state of affairs, the ultimate scandal of corruption in Spain has been the “Gürtel operation”. The main perpetrator behind the scandal was former Spanish senator and treasurer of the right-wing ‘Partido Popular’, Luis Bárcenas. The supreme justice has accused him of embezzling 22 million Euros in five different Swiss bank accounts and thereafter, transferring that amount to a host of others accounts. The operation was first uncovered in 2009 and since then an ongoing investigation has been taking place.
As of today, we know that the case has so far implicated four important Spanish businessmen, led by Francisco Correa, who created a conglomerate of different enterprises whose main purpose was to appropriate money from public funding trusts. The businessmen are accused of bribery, money laundering and tax evasion, and have been linked with a host of ‘Partido Popular’ members in Valencia, Madrid and Galicia.
Corruption’s web has, since then, spanned even further through Spain. Recently, a new case of fraud and corruption has been reported which has shocked the entirety of Spain. It had been reported that members of the Royal Family,in particular Iñaki Urdangarín, have been embroiled into the matter. Urdangarín is the husband of Infanta Cristina of Spain, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca (the youngest daughter of the King). He has been accused of transferring public funds for his own benefit through the Nóos Foundation (“Nóos operation”).
Never before has a royal family member been tried in such a scandal, or at least not with such substantial evidence. This operation has reopened the debate –not only about the fact that a people’s representative has been transferring public funds to his accounts – about the role of the monarchy in Spain.
In these cases of fraud and corruption it is important to note that the cultural and political elite did not act alone.Hundreds of anonymous citizens “helped” them in different ways: hiding information, looking away at their actions or receiving favours. It is true that these “famous” defendants kept the large quantities of money for themselves, but illegal activities have been committed on various levels by various different sets of people, and justice should be served to all parties involved.
Evidently, Spain is now in a very deep financial crisis. What is perhaps less evident is that several severe social crisis are being experienced simultaneously. The Spanish citizenry does not believe what their leaders say and does not trust the actions they undertake. We see, day after day, new cases of corruption, where someone has used his or her personal power to appropriate something which belonged to all Spaniards. There is no region in the country which is free from corruption.
But the most disappointing aspect in all of this is that those who have been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, are, but for a few cases, not going to jail. Usually, their lawyers will make a legal agreement with the judge and their only penalty is to pay an agreed quantity of money.
The Spanish have to regain their confidence in the system and the state. However, forgiving those who have acted unjustly against Spanish society will not help resolve the financial and social crises Sapin currently finds itself in.
– Eulàlia Mata
(Featured photo: Jürg Dalkkas. Creative Commons, Flickr)