Friday, April 05, 2013

Judgement By Email: Princess Cristina

If you knew nothing else about affairs in Spain but were presented with the news that the youngest daughter of the King had been supoeaned to appear in a court to answer questions related to a suspected corruption case and that members of the government had been listed in accounts which suggested that they had received money from a slush fund, then you would be within your rights to believe that Spain was on the point of institutional collapse.

That it may not be owes a great deal to what you wouldn't therefore know about other affairs in Spain. The indictment of Princess Cristina may be a sensation, the ledgers revealing possible black money may be dynamite, but this is Spain.

Prime Minister Rajoy, one of those listed in the ledgers, would have known about the subpoena when he addressed his party on Wednesday. Sidestepping the issue, he instead insisted that the economy would be growing by next year and that it was untrue that Spain was a country with widespread political corruption. It all rather depends on how one defines widespread, I guess.

Institutional collapse, that of either the monarchy or the government, is not going to happen, but the government and the main PSOE opposition are clearly alarmed at the damage that the Cristina sensation, coming on top of the leaked ledgers, may cause to Spain's image, such as it is, and to stability. Officially, neither the PP nor PSOE comments on judicial matters, leaving these to the judges (or judge in the case of the Princess), but this hasn't stopped unofficial voices of disapproval of Judge Castro's indictment of the Princess. He has done so as a means of self-aggrandisement, it is being suggested.

This is most unlikely. Castro is not Baltasar Garzón. But the judge will, like Garzón, have his enemies and there will be jealousies of him. It was these that helped to bring Garzón down. Any attempt, though, to constrain Castro by accusing him of exceeding his authority (which is what happened to Garzón) would be many more times damaging than either the harm that was caused to Spain's image by Garzón being disqualified or by the subpoena of the Princess.

Though the anti-corruption prosecutors are appealing the subpoena (they do not consider there are sufficient grounds for the Princess to be called), the reasons why Judge Castro has changed his mind - he had also suggested that there were insufficient grounds - are becoming clearer, and they are contained in the emails that Diego Torres has supplied the judge with. At least, one has to assume that the reasons are becoming clearer.

The emails that have appeared in the press do not make a compelling case against the Princess or indeed Urdangarin. They show that she was involved with Nóos and that Urdangarin continued his association with Nóos after both he and the Princess had resigned from Nóos on the King's instructions in 2006. But then, we already knew this. They show that, rather than having had nothing to do with Nóos, as Urdangarin has said, the Princess was involved in certain capacities, such as her having been lined up to be "sporting advisor" for a project to do with the Americas Cup (contained in an email of October 2007), but being involved in activities is not the same as having been a knowing participant in diverting public funds for personal gain. And this is the whole point of the case.

Urdangarin, and who can frankly blame him, has sought to keep his wife out of the whole affair, a wife who is a member of the Royal Family. You wouldn't have expected him to have done anything else, especially given her connections. He may therefore have been hiding her involvement, but if this involvement was as is suggested by the emails - and in one, the private secretary to the Princess says that she cannot be made an honorary president for one particular event - then, while it would amount to her lending her name to her husband's business affairs and so could be construed as wielding or abusing a position of influence, does it amount to corruption?

There are many more emails that are in the judge's possession. Quite what they contain, who can say. There are questions that the Princess should be asked, but the fact that the prosecutors have appealed the subpoena leads one to draw different conclusions, one of which is that they, the prosecutors, may be right. We will find out. Or maybe we won't.

Any comments to please.

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