December 14, 2008


Had words with P - again - about my continuing unease about living in Spain and yearning for the relative decency of the UK (not to mention family and friends). Specifically about the corruption which seems unremitting here. Apart from the never-ending trials involving Roca and his ilk like Barrientos, Julían Munoz etc etc, you hear stories all the time about the more petty, unpublicised instances of graft still going on.

A lawyer friend of ours comes into contact with this unseen side more than most. He routinely regales us with cases he comes across in the course of his work. Like the one he’s currently dealing with involving a café owner who's had to pay a series of local inspectors numerous bribes simply to get the necessary licence to open his business. Or another, in which a property developer is suing his builder accused of bribing a quantity surveyor to certify the construction of a swimming pool which subsequently collapsed.

All these cases in and of themselves might seem mildly amusing, trivial even but there is a darker side - as our friend reminded us. Corruption in Spain - as in a number of Southern Mediterranean countries - is quite endemic and ingrained. And will take at least another generation to disappear.

During the boom years of the last decade, Southern Spain in particular saw extraordinary wealth flow into the region with the influx of Arabs, North Europeans and, currently, Russian and East European mafias. And wherever wealth pops up, graft isn’t far behind.

And thus, as outrageous bribes have routinely been seen to be taken by senior staff in town halls, it’s hardly unsurprising that those lower down the pecking order have followed suit with more modest backhanders and other swindles. And so it goes on. And will continue unless today’s youth finally learns the lesson from the tsunami of corruption trials currently flowing through the courts - that crime doesn’t pay.

Just don’t hold your breath. As in the case of Roca et al (see next post), the jury’s out on that one too…

No comments: