Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Falling Dominoes: Corruption

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? I suppose it depends on how you define fun. Some of mine has involved corruption. Not that fun is really the word, I guess. Interest perhaps? Curiosity? Fascination?

Time has flown by since November 2006. I was reminded of this during a brief social media exchange the other day. It was the month when it all started. You can put an exact date on it: 27 November 2006. Or was the date two years earlier? In 2004 something very important occurred. The first regional anti-corruption prosecutor in the Balearics was appointed. The one-time attorney-general, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, had set about creating positions of these prosecutors in Spain's regions. There were some regions that needed prosecutors more than others. It may be that 2004 was when the domino effect started. Or at least when the dominoes stood up. Knock one and eventually they all tumble. One by one.

The prosecutor was Juan Carrau. In November 2006 it was he who knocked over the first domino. The name was Eugenio Hidalgo. He was the mayor of Andratx. He's still serving time.

Whenever one considers developments over the past ten years or so, one always goes back to Andratx. But there was something else which happened not long afterwards which drew comparatively little notice but was also significant: there were coordinated raids on lawyers and notaries offices. These, together with Andratx, marked the beginning. A change was in process. The dominoes started to quake and shiver.

Andratx wasn't the first time that the legal system had taken action against corruption. The Soller Tunnel affair of the 1990s brought down the Partido Popular president, Gabriel Cañellas, but the whole thing ended up with acquittals because of the statute of limitations. Andratx was to prove that the judiciary possessed sharper teeth, and when Jaume Matas came under suspicion, soon after losing the election in the spring of 2007, the dominoes were trembling even more.

Not everything that has transpired since Andratx can be traced back to it. But some can be. There was a trail to Matas, and once the prosecution and the investigating judge, José Castro, had sniffed it, they were dogs unprepared to let go of the bone. Palma Arena loomed massively, and by way of various branches from that investigation, the former Duke of Palma (Iñaki Urdangarin) caught the attention of Castro and Pedro Horrach.

The investigation into Palma police corruption was a separate matter, but overlaps were to emerge. José Maria Rodríguez, the now former head of the PP in Palma, was implicated with Andratx. Another strand of the Matas investigations - one still outstanding - was Son Espases. Among various names to have cropped up in respect of the hospital contract investigation is Tolo Cursach.

A great deal has been said and written since Cursach was arrested. There is a great deal to say. One only has to consider the charges. The book is being thrown at him, closely followed by the bookcase. In a spate of soul-searching, questions are being asked. Is Cursach somehow the culmination of all that has preceded him in terms of investigations? How could Cursach have happened? What does Cursach say about Mallorca?

It is miles away from dodgy land deals in Andratx, but there is a sense that it is a culmination, and that is because of the scale. The allegations are of systematic and systemic corruption that goes back decades, which has touched and affected many: systematic because of the organisation, systemic because of entire systems implicated. Cursach starts to become easy to explain when this distinction is drawn.

Alejandro Salas of Transparency International once said that corruption in Spain is "impregnated into different sectors of society". Gabriel Garcias, a law professor at the University of the Balearic Islands, has said that "so long as there is no ethical or moral transformation in society, the law will solve nothing". 

This isn't to say that every person in Mallorca is culpable or anything of the sort. The point about society is the existence of a societal mores. Politicians, police, businesspeople are society. In order for corruption to exist and to be perpetuated on a wide scale and for a length of time, there has to be a societal collusion. If there isn't, then the system is incomplete.

In corruption cases such as Palma Arena or Nóos, the effects on society in general have been largely abstract. There hasn't been actual harm in a physical way. Nóos, for instance, didn't involve allegations of homicide or threats. Nóos was not systemic. That these allegations are present in the Cursach and police corruption investigations reveal the magnitude of what is being played out.

The judge and prosecutor are holding society to account. That society which enables abuse of a systemic nature. The final dominoes may just be falling.

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