Returning to the legal path
By Dave Jones IT’S A good day to bury news, UK government special adviser Jo Moore had told colleagues on September 11, 2001 – in an email which was subsequently leaked to the press and understandably caused some consternation.
And, in Spain at the moment, it is an excellent time for the national Partido Popular (PP) government to keep its peccadillos off the front pages.
A cynic might say that they deliberately ensured that the Catalan question developed into a full-scale crisis to avoid having to answer questions over their own illegalities – but that would be one for the conspiracy theorists and not allegedly ‘sensible’ journalism.
After the controversial referendum in Cataluña on October 1 and the suspended declaration of independence, the mantra of the PP government was that the Catalan government of Carles Puigdemont had to return to the legal path (‘tienen que volver a la legalidad’). The necessity of ‘back to legality’ was repeated time and again by PM Mariano Rajoy and his ministers whenever someone stuck a microphone under their noses. And, not one of them blushed or showed any sign of embarrassment when they said it.
And why should they, you may ask? Well, it probably escaped a lot of people’s attention last week that an anti-corruption prosecutor effectively accused the national PP of being a corrupt organisation. Concepción Sabadell was explaining the alleged institutional behaviour of the PP during her summing up in court of the Gürtel case. The defendants are currently being tried in the first phase of the corruption scandal which covers the period from 1999 to 2005. The judiciary have had to divide the case into different parts due to its complexity – and the increasing influence of the corruption network around Spain as time went on.
Gürtel is the judicial investigation which uncovered that former PP national party treasurer Luis Bárcenas (pictured) had managed to stash an estimated €47 million in tax havens around the world, cash which Sr Bárcenas claims came from wise investments and sales of art works, etc. It is the corruption network which was run by Francisco Correa who, according to the state prosecution service, would pay large amounts of money into the PP’s slush fund in order to win lucrative public contracts.
Prosecutor Concepción Sabadell told the court that notes made by Sr Bárcenas made reference to the PP’s parallel accounting system, the so-called ‘B’ accounts – the unofficial accounts which outlined underthe-counter payments to the party from businessmen.
She stated: “The Bárcenas papers have ‘fully’ and ‘overwhelmingly’ proven the existence of the ‘B’ accounts (parallel accounts).”
It should be mentioned at this stage that the PP have always denied the existence of any parallel accounts – or that a slush fund existed which was used to funnel brown-envelope payments to the party’s top brass. They dispute the information which appears in the notebooks of Sr Bárcenas, which sets out payments to a series of prominent party members.
However, according to the prosecutor, the investigation had proven that money paid into the B account came from businessmen in order to win lucrative public contracts.
“These were not charitable donations,” she told the court.
“They were looking to make profits.”
At the same time she noted that those who had not benefitted from the illegal payments were the Spanish people and the State.
Taking all this into account, I would like to ask – have the PP returned to the legal path? Have they now got rid of the parallel accounting system which was set up to keep a check on the ‘donations’ which came in from expectant businessmen?
I would also like to ruminate on how not one member of the national PP had the decency to blush while stating that the Catalans had to start doing things in a legal fashion on the very day that the state prosecution service outlined how their party had been benefitting from illegal donations/bribes. Still, I guess that’s politics. Morality is neither here nor there.
Fortunately for governments there are always good days for burying bad news. Dave Jones worked as a reporter and news editor in the UK press for seven years before coming to Spain. He started out at the Walsall Advertiser and finished up at the Evening Sentinel in Stoke. He has worked as a journalist in Spain for 11 years and is currently editor of the Costa Blanca News, south edition.