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Juan Bernardo Fuentes. SUR
Corruption is everywhere

Corruption is everywhere

A 2022 Eurobarometer survey found that sixty-eight per cent of EU citizens believe that corruption is rife in their country

Fergal Macerlean

Friday, 24 March 2023, 13:31

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As the murky details of Spain's latest corruption scandal, the Caso Mediador (Mediator Case), are probed by a judge in Tenerife, it is evident that nothing has changed since the Gürtel case. That ushered in the PSOE-led government in June 2018 following the Spanish congress vote to remove Prime Minister Rajoy after his Partido Popular (PP), was embroiled in the massive kickbacks scandal. Pedro Sánchez said the PP had "subjected the institutions to their darkest and most illicit ends" as he vowed to stamp out corruption. PSOE, of course, has form when it comes to widespread abuse too: the diversion of public funds by former Junta heads, José Antonio Griñán and Manuel Chaves, and members of the regional government in the ERE scandal involved some 680 million euros.

Now the former PSOE MP for the Canary Islands, Juan Bernardo Fuentes Curbelo, known as Tito Berni, is being investigated for bribery, money laundering, and peddling influence. His nephew Taishet Fuentes, placed on the Socialists' electoral list for Las Palmas ahead of regional elections in May, before the Mediator scandal broke in February, is also implicated.

Canarian businessman Antonio Navarro Tacoronte is alleged to have acted as a 'mediator'. Among the allegations are that public contracts could be bought in the Canary Islands, and elsewhere, with access to European aid funds for business men who were treated to cocaine-fuelled parties with prostitutes during the pandemic.

Dubbed 'Papá' by his associates, Francisco Espinosa Navas, a former Guardia Civil general is the only suspect being held in jail. He is suspected of rigging public contracts which involved EU funds. A Guardia Civil investigation is examining whether Navas and his alleged co-conspirators manipulated contracts for barracks repairs. And the deputy prime minister and minister of economy, Nadia Calviño, has been forced to disassociate the FIIAPP Foundation - which she chairs - from the alleged corruption plot as the public sector body which manages international cooperation projects tendered several contracts worth more than two million euros to a company linked to Navas. The European Anti-Fraud Office has been investigating the foundation since December.

So much for Sánchez's anti-corruption drive. Under his watch an anti-corruption plan and key pieces of legislation covering transparency, lobbying and whistleblowing have been delayed.

People may say Spain is different. But corruption is everywhere. A 2022 Eurobarometer survey found that sixty-eight per cent of EU citizens believe that corruption is rife in their country. That is why a forthcoming update to the EU's legal framework is so vital in the fight for stronger democracies in Europe. This will incorporate the United Nations Convention Against Corruption among other improvements to ensure that all forms of corruption are criminalised in all EU countries.

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