Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Tailor Is Not Rich

The corruption case named Operación Gürtel continues to dominate much of the news in Spain this week. The media attention has switched back to that part of the case affecting the Valencian regional government, and is specifically focused on the accusation that the Valencian president Francisco Camps was given several expensive suits by those involved in the corruption ring. El País interviewed the tailor who habitually dealt with Camps, and he claimed in the interview that the payment for the suits involved was made by someone who worked for the company Orange Market; beneficiaries of extremely lucrative contracts from the administration led by Camps. He also said that payment was made using the favourite means of those who have abundant undeclared funds in Spain, wads of €500 notes. Another claim made was that the tailor occasionally had to meet Camps in his suite at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid to take measurements for the suits.

All of this is quite entertaining, but tends to overshadow the really threatening part of the case affecting Valencia, the issue of whether the Valencian Partido Popular received money back from the companies involved as part of an illegal party financing plan. The problem for Camps is that although he has loudly proclaimed that he pays for all of his suits, he can't actually provide any proof of this; not even a credit card or bank statement. At an event last weekend he was greeted by some members of the public with shouts of "trajes para todos", and regardless of whether the alleged gift is regarded as a very serious matter it has put him in a difficult position for all the support he gets from within his own party. The Valencian government is threatening to take legal action against those who besmirch the good name of Camps, something which in itself can be considered corrupt behaviour - he should pay for his own legal action as well as for his suits. Whilst we're on the subject of who pays what, I think we can safely assume that the bill at the Ritz - one of Madrid's most expensive hotels - was paid for by Valencian taxpayers. Meanwhile the tailor in question was sacked by his employers almost immediately after first declaring before the judge.

All those suits and all he has to wear is a sack!

Investigating judge Baltasar Garzón has surrendered the case concerning those who enjoy some kind of political immunity (Camps included) to the appropriate courts in the regions affected; Madrid and Valencia. He is, however, continung with the rest of the investigation affecting those who do not enjoy any sort of special protection until the issue of where the rest of the case goes is resolved. Nobody seems to have much expectation of the Valencia case getting very far, those who are concerned about judicial independence on the part of Garzón really need to check out the mutual admiration society formed by Camps and the president of the Valencian Supreme Court. The PP has launched new bids to get him removed from the case, but none are expected to get very far and they have more propaganda value than anything else as the party continues to try and play the role of victim.

Clearly the PP hopes that their media allies will eventually succeed in damaging Garzón enough to bring down the whole case. Monday's great revelation from El Mundo was that the judge got paid handsomely for delivering the same speech in two different places, something which would be a bit boring for anyone unlucky enough to attend both events but which hardly falls into the category of crime of the century. Garzón is in slightly more trouble over that fact that he didn't declare to the judicial authorities that he would be earning money whilst on a sabbatical stay in the US. El Mundo, in typical distorted fashion, managed to report this issue without even mentioning that it arose from the failure of an accusation alleging that Garzón had been paid much more in return for protecting the Banco Santander in a different case. Whatever the defects of Garzon's methodology, the corruption case is genuine and what the PP is effectively seeking here is impunity for their corrupt representatives. If they succeed then they will try to do the same with all future cases, and the tailors will be kept very busy.


Colin said...

Graeme, Good to see that Valencia is not too far South of Watford for you to make informed [and amusing] comment. Are you sure we can't persuade you to turn to the Junta of Andalucia?

Graeme said...

East is east Colin, the information on what is happening in Valencia is a national story, and I don't know of any equivalent case currently happening in the south. I will be going to Al Andalus for my Easter break so I'll keep a look out for anything interesting. I will also applaud as loudly as anyone when (if) they finally get rid of that horrible hotel in El Algarrobico.