Time for a South of Watford mini-series on what is already promising to be a vintage year for the Spanish judicial system. I'm hoping that putting numbers on the instalments will give me sufficient impetus to follow up with the rest but there's no guarantee of that. It might just end up like one of those Spanish TV series that gets abruptly cancelled, or it could go on for ever. It's not like there's a shortage of material.
Let's start with the case of the man who we may yet have to refer to again as the Molt Honorable Francisco Camps. Acquitted yesterday by a Valencian jury of having accepted free gifts of clothing from the organisers of the Gürtel corruption ring, Camps has won what was an almighty gamble. Whilst two of his fellow accused previously declared themselves to be guilty as charged on the (ill judged) assumption that the Molt Unpredictable was going to do the same, Camps decided to bet on a jury trial getting him off the hook.
His fellow defendant, Ricardo Costa, wisely didn't take Camps on his word and went to trial too with the result that he has also been acquitted. After a trial lasting several weeks, the nine member jury voted 5-4 for acquittal last night just in time to go off and watch the Barça-Madrid game. All of this in spite of extensive evidence having been presented of the relationship between Camps and the Gürtel ringleaders, and the evident attempts to manipulate crucial documentation in favour of the accused.
There are now many critical of the decision to leave the verdict in the hands of a jury, with claims that a more professional tribunal would never have acquitted the two men. I'm not convinced about this, after all I remember the example of judge De la Rua and with a post pending on the Spanish Supreme Court's continuing vendetta against Baltasar Garzón I'm not sure this is the moment for praising the detached professionalism of the judiciary. Juries can deliver seemingly perverse verdicts, but so can judges with decades of experience.
Perhaps, given the apparent willingness of voters in Valencia to vote for the corrupt, there could be a case for such trials to be held outside the area of influence of the politicians concerned. But then Spain's decentralized judicial system doesn't generally allow for that. We also have to take into account the separation of the case concerning the clothes from the much meatier part that concerns the possible illegal financing of the Partido Popular in Valencia via the Gürtel companies.
Ironically, the acquittal of Camps creates something of a headache for Mariano Rajoy. Having taken some tentative steps to begin a clean up of the festering swamp that the Valencian PP has become, he would send a terrible signal if Camps was to be restored as regional president. But the latter is still a member of the Valencian parliament. It's notable that there are no Valencian politicians in Rajoy's administration. Rajoy obviously has the power and patronage to put Camps in a cozy position where he can do little damage and that should probably be somewhere far from Valencia. Given that Esperanza Aguirre shows such little interest in being Spanish ambassador in Kazakhstan, perhaps a suitable position could yet be found for Mariano's old friend Paco Camps?