Thursday, February 26, 2009


The corruption probe led by Spain’s famous judge Baltazar Garzón involving businessmen with ties to the Partido Popular has entered a new phase.

On Wednesday in a legal document Garzón indicated there was the possibility of national politicians being implicated. To date only local PP politicians have been fingered by the judge.

Garzón, for now, is not naming any names but that has not stopped media speculation. Politicians who have appeared in print in El País and other newspapers include the PP’s treasurer Luis Barcena and European Parliament MP Gerardo Galeote. Earlier the judge formally denied that a senior PP politician from Valencia was under suspicion as reported by El País but gave no such solace to Barcena.

The PP is of course fighting back. It has filed a complaint Garzón alleging “corrupt practices.” Garzón himself has asked prosecutors if he should be removed from the case as he is sits in the National Audience, Spain's highest criminal court that is technically not competent to investigate Spanish politicians and lawmakers.

The investigation has also embroiled the ruling PSOE government. The PP criticised the former justice minister, Mariano Fernández Bermejo, for going on a hunting trip with Garzón – the politician resigned his post on Monday.

One of the first arrests several weeks ago was of Francisco Correa at his home in Sotogrande in San Roque. The entrepreneur organised PP events and it is alleged he is behind dodgy building permits and other lucrative contracts awarded by PP municipal councils in Madrid, Valencia and elsewhere.

All of this will take British and indeed US readers by surprise because the tradition in those countries is for the judiciary and the political worlds to keep themselves at arms length. Indeed, the judges and law makers are more often than not at each others throats rather than sharing lunch on shooting parties. The White House has often been at odds with the Supreme Court, even though the President chooses its judges, and the High Court in London has often rattled the cage of the Prime Minister and his cohorts.

The problem in Spain is that although everybody accepts politicians are corrupt the judges are in danger of now being viewed as political rather than judicial – or perhaps they always were.

No comments: