Corruption is rising faster in Spain than anywhere except for civil-war-torn Syria, according to T
ransparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), published on Tuesday.
Spain dropped 10 places to 40 out of 177 in the corruption rankings.
Anne Koch, Transparency International’s director for Europe and Central Asia, recently explained Spain’s harsh rating to Reuters:
What the economic crisis has done is allow more public debate about corruption … It is being exposed more and that affects perceptions. In Spain every sector — politics, the royal family and companies — was implicated in graft at a time when the country is really suffering.
Spain underwent two high profile scandals this year that contributed to rising corruption.
Widespread graft in the government
Last January, Spain’s two main newspapers El Pais and El Mundo, published documents that reportedly showed a series of payments from well known businessmen to the ruling People’s Party (PP). The payments took place over more than a decade, with the last payment occurring in 2009.
According to El Pais, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy received an annual sum of $US34,000 between 1997 and 2008 from a slush fund maintained by now-incarcerated former treasurer Luis Bárcenas. Luis Bárcenas, who was a party administrator for two decades before becoming a senator and finally the treasurer, allegedly kept a double accounting system to hide the payments.
What’s worse, El Pais reported that the PP’s secret fund came from construction magnates who received public contracts and helped cause the real-estate bubble that is largely to blame for Spain’s current financial woes.
El Pais ran a poll that included some shocking statistics after the story broke: Four out of five Spaniards believed that the PP’s leadership should resign completely and just over half wanted a snap general election.
Rajoy repeatedly asserted his and his party’s innocence throughout the ordeal and during a special hearing in front of Parliament in August, but the polls after that hearing were just as negative. El Mundo reported that 72.1 per cent of Spaniards thought that Rajoy was lying while the Sigma Dos Institute reported that 60% of people polled thought Rajoy should resign.
Despite the constant calls for his resignation, Rajoy has yet to acquiesce. El Pais ran a scathing opinion piece on why neither Rajoy nor any disgraced Spanish politician will resign:
In Spain, anyone caught red-handed, whether his name is Bárcenas, [Health Minister] Mato or Fernández, will then try to wriggle his way out of the situation in any way he can, doing a balancing act, trying to divert attention from the subject or dragging others into the mess. They protest their innocence (as if it was of a strictly legal nature, devoid of any political implications), deny the veracity of documents or claim to be the victims of a plot. They even go as far as publishing their tax returns to divert attention. But they may just as well publish their prayer books, because neither the former nor the latter contribute anything to clearing up matters.
Scandal in the royal family
In 2011, Iñaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma and King Juan Carlos’s son-in-law, was accused of embezzling millions of public dollars given to a charity he ran from 2004 to 2006.
The money was allegedly placed in the non-profit Noose Institute, which organizes sports and cultural events. Urdangarin and his former business partner Diego Torres ran the charity at the time, while Princess Cristina de Borbon, Urdangarin’s wife, was on the board.
Urdangarin may have been embroiled in the courts for the past two years, but the story took another high profile turn in April when a judge reversed a previous decision and indicted the princess on fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion charges.
Earlier this year, Urdangarin was suspended from official royal engagements and his properties were impounded to cover an $US8.2m bond ordered by the Spanish courts to cover Urdangarin’s liability in the case.
Many Spaniards believe King Juan Carlos was, if not part of Urdangarin’s embezzling scheme, at least intimately aware of it. Earlier this year, leaked emails indicated that the King took a close interest in his son-in-law’s business ventures.
These two scandals are just a few of the more than 1,500 corruption cases that have hit Spain since the start of their financial crisis, according to USAToday . The crisis has only magnified the public’s interest in the cases and eroded their confidence in a government that has been a circus over the last year.
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