12 years

Events in recent years have given us reason to agree with those who say that very few politicians are ever put behind bars. Twelve years ago however, when Juan Antonio Roca and a large number of Marbella councillors were sent to prison, the scene was practically unheard-of. One question will always remain: would the ice block of impunity for offences committed within institutions have broken in such a way if those who looted Marbella town hall for 15 years had been under the protective umbrella of one of the big national parties?

The reality is that these thieves belonged to the GIL party, and with the death of their leader who rubbed shoulders with judges and ministers in the stands of the Vicente Calderón football ground, they were the weakest link in the chain of institutional corruption. The years of immunity, judicial apathy and policitical collusion were gone and the heirs of Jesús Gil couldn't see it.

We'll never know if 'Operación Malaya' really took those big fish by surprise, although they would certainly have been surprised by the size and significance of the operation. Not in their worst nightmares could they have imagined the years in court and certainly not the time behind bars.

'Operación Malaya' happened 12 years ago and since then we have seen politicians of all colours and even members of the royal family in court. You only have to recall the shockwaves caused by that operation and compare them with what came later to appreciate that that was the event that started a new era in Spanish political culture.

Juan Antonio Roca has just got his freedom back. There will be some, perhaps quite rightly, who consider that this isn't long considering the damage caused. But if we take into account that in all this time we have seen changes in government, the end of the two-party system with the appearance of two new groups, the arrival of a black man at the White House and an Argentinian Pope at the Vatican, the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, the biggest and longest financial depression on record, the appearance of smartphones and the invasion of social media in our everyday lives, and that all this time Roca has been in prison, perhaps we could conclude that in Marbella there has been no impunity. We ought to be pleased about that.