Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Spain: Corruption...

JD writes:

Last week the Guardia Civil in Spain, after a couple of years quietly gathering evidence, arrested 51 regional politicians. Although corruption among officials and businesmen is a well known, but unspoken , 'fact of life' in Spain, the suddenness of the action came as a shock to everyone. The newspapers have been full of little else ever since.

But 51 people taken in for questioning is just the tip of a very large iceberg - I have just been reading this-

"The figures for corruption in Spain show that there have been more than 1,900 people charged in prosecutions for corruption and at least 170 have been convicted of such crimes in the last legislature. However, most of those convicted are not in prison, either because they were given suspended sentences or were disqualified from public office or fined or they still have appeals pending.

"According to data gathered by Europa Press, among those accused and convicted are people who have held positions in political parties or in public administration at all levels as well as businessmen, lawyers, trade unionists and families of all of them, mainly for urban planning corruption , tax fraud and illegal recruitment of both personnel and business."

The corruption is widespread and convoluted. The leading figure in Catalan politics for the past 30 or 40 years (Jordi Pujol) is being investigated along with his two sons, Francisco Granados deputy mayor of the Madrid region has been arrested and it appears that his family are all part of his 'scam', the miners' union chief has been asked to explain where he got his millions from, Mariano Rajoy is desperately doing a damage limitation exercise as most of those arrested are from his party, the Bankia chief is in jail (I think, I'll have to go and check the papers again)

I was told this morning that Valencia is the worst region for 'backhanders' from property developers and the 'white elephant' that is the new Castellón-Costa Azahar Airport would seem to confirm that. However, I'm not the only one who is lost! This is from the newspaper El Mundo-

"The avalanche of cases makes it difficult to track down those involved in the corruption that span the country. offers an interactive map that lists all cases at regional and national level as well as the largest municipal scandals of this century, focusing on the political class and senior officials linked to parties, making up 80% of the listed in this sample involved. This is a work in progress and we would like your cooperation. If you have any precision or suggestions, please write to "

As you can see they are asking for people to email with stories which sounds like an invitation to crash their server as I am sure everyone, including me, can give an example of how the wheels are oiled.

If you check the map at the link you will see that there are 38 names in Cataluña, 80 in Valencia region, 74 in Madrid region and a staggering 111 in Andalucia! Aragon, Navarra and Asturias are the only regions with a 'score' of zero (so far!)

As they say, this is a developing story but it looks as though it will run and run. There are cases which are already 'out of time', which have passed the date before which a case must be brought to Court which means they will have to start again. The lawyers will be the only winners here, as usual.

The fall-out continues and we are seeing new stories emerging all the time.

I not sure that these people are wicked as such, it is very easy to lose sight of core values when one is in a position of authority or even close to those in such positions. The actuality of helping friends and colleagues happens all the time to a greater or lesser degree in all walks of life. I can testify to that with a tale of my own: Some years ago I was working in Venezuela for a very big construction company (French company) and they had a 'Mr Fixit' who would help with administration, to liaise with officialdom etc. When I had completed my work there, this Mr Fixit took me to Caracas airport and within about ten minutes of arriving at the front door I was sitting in the 1st Class departure lounge. No check-in, no security check, no queues, no passport control (Mr Fixit took my passport and came back with it stamped)

Now, if that sort of thing were to happen all the time, as it does with politicians and businessmen, it would be very easy to become detached from reality and gradually drift into a position of expecting it to happen as a matter of course.

So it is easy to see now and why they are merely giving in to temptation and are blinded by the sin of avarice.

This is happening in Spain now. To what extent is it happening in the rest of Europe? How large a problem is it in the UK?

Is there anything that can be done about it?

As I say above, it happens all the time at all levels of society, even in small ways - you scratch my back... etc. Is there any way of amending human nature?

Shakespeare knew all about human nature-

"but man, proud man,
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd—
His glassy essence—like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep."

[JD adds:]

You are welcome to add your own observations. I am more forgiving of the failings of human nature; some of those implicated are out and out villains, but some of them are just giving in to temptation. It is easy to be seduced by the preferential treatment you receive. If I could pass through every airport as easily as I did through Caracas, life would be far more comfortable and expectations would rise accordingly to the point where it would seem like an entitlement. Which is why politicians actually genuinely believe they have 'done nothing wrong'.

At what point does 'doing a favour' turn into corruption? Should the Parliamentary Lobby be allowed or banned for example? Life is complicated, is it not :)


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.


A K Haart said...

"This is happening in Spain now. To what extent is it happening in the rest of Europe? How large a problem is it in the UK?"

We have our perceptions, but we don't really know. Spain could be further along the road of rooting it out. Tower Hamlets could be the tip of our iceberg.

James Higham said...

Always comes back to money, dunnit, eh?