Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas Señor Fabra

There was another notable absence from the rogues gallery of Partido Popular leaders featured in the party's Christmas video. Christmas came a little bit late this year for Carlos Fabra, the cacique who runs the Castellón PP. Never mind, his present made up for the delay, as the Castellón courts decided to drop almost all of the serious tax fraud charges that he was facing. It's not that the court declared that no crime had been committed, just that a formal accusation had not been made in time for the statute of limitations to run out on the offences committed.

It's worth remembering that the case against Fabra is not based on speculative mudslinging accusations. His numerous bank accounts have been studied by experts from Hacienda who have checked no fewer than 17,000 financial transactions involving Fabra, his family and their companies. They came to the conclusion that don Carlos had no less than €3,7 million of income that he couldn't justify, and which of course had not been declared to the tax authorities. Around €1 million of this is what is said to be owing to Hacienda, which seems quite a generous rate of taxation for such a large amount. Anyway, it all counts when we have such a large budget deficit to deal with. 

The case against Fabra has experienced an unusually large number of problems over the years, as the local court supposed to handle it has suffered repeated changes of judge which have of course helped the Fabras in escaping the day of reckoning. The anti-corruption prosecutors are going to appeal yesterday's decision on the not unreasonable grounds that if a tax fraud charge for the year 1999 still stands then so should accusations concerning the continued fraud in the following years. Fabra is still also facing charges of influence trafficking, but the strategy will no doubt be one of delaying the process in the hope that an incoming PP government will take care of the matter to his advantage. Prescription is an option that always seems to be almost exclusively reserved for the wealthy and powerful.

There is every reason to think that the PP will behave this way given the manner in which they have celebrated Fabra getting away with it. Champagne corks have been popping inside the party for the man who PP leader Mariano Rajoy has described as an "exemplary citizen". It's still an open question what hold Fabra has on the PP's leadership given that they defend him even more firmly than other prominent figures, such as Francisco Camps, who are not facing such serious charges. The party tries to act as if prescription of the charges is the same thing as proof of innocence, and that massive tax fraud is fine as long as no court ever pronounces on it.

Anybody who pays their taxes should choke on reading the details of Fabra's income and his attitude concerning declaration of his income. On this sort of issue it seems that Spain divides into two, El Club de los Listillos (Fabra & company) and La Clase Gilipollas - those of us who pay the extra cost of the corruption of the listillos as well as all the public services. The worst thing is that the listillos don't depend just on their own cleverness in ripping the rest of us off, they get the votes of a good part of the Clase Gilipollas to tell them that what they are doing is fine. I marvel at the way in which people like Fabra will be defended by those who only lose from doing so, and whose only arguments are the pathetic "but I know of someone in another party who's also corrupt" or the even more hopeless "why don't you talk about <any other problem but this>".

The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that if the PP return to power we should all stop paying our taxes, that should get us a round of applause from the government. Or have I missed something?


Coco said...

It seems to me that, in general, corruption amongst conservative politicians is regarded by conservative voters as ¨entrepreneurial¨ and therefore a good thing.

ejh said...

Well, it's a conservative shibboleth that taxes are too high and go on things and people who don't deserve them, therefore who cares about tax evasion.

But really, I can't think of many situations where political parties have been punished for corruption by the electorate. Yes, there was Clean Hands in Italy and the collapse of the Christian Democrats (and Socialists) but that's very much the exception and it took forty years to happen.

I think it's partly that the way politicians behave is only a reflection of the way wider society behaves. In the UL before the last election there was a lot of fuss about expenses fiddling. My view at the time was that the fuss was fair enough, but given that fiddling is a national pastime - fiddling of expenses forms, fiddling of VAT, fiddling of insurance, fiddling of benefits - then that's the political culture we got, one of fiddling.

In Spain, where tax evasion is rife, and who-knows-who is of great importance, you get a political culture of tax evasion and influence-peddling. It's like that because it's like that. I mean this is a country where people step into another room when buying a property so they can hand over the amount of money they're not declaring.

It's not going to affect any elections, that's for sure. Being corrupt on Spain's Meditteranean coast is like being corrupt in Florida, which is to say it's like being six foot six in a basketball team. They'd stand out in the company of you and me, but in the company they normally keep, they're not even noticed.

Graeme said...

I take the point, maybe a lot of people who do small scale tax fraud identify with Fabra, but I think it goes beyond just being a question of corruption. I keep thinking of Warren Buffet, who said recently that the rich should be paying more taxes because they've never had it so good. The reason why Buffet and company aren't paying more taxes isn't just because of the opposition of a few rich people - it's also because a large section of the Clase Gilipollas doesn't want it to happen. Whether this is because they aspire to be listillos, or because of deference to the powerful, or because of other reasons is arguable but we get ripped off systematically by a small minority because many others are happy for it to be so.