The shabby image of the Spanish justice system after the conviction of Carlos Fabra was epitomized on Monday by the Popular Party (PP) politician himself, who said he was “highly satisfied” with the verdict and now felt absolved of any crimes of corruption. Indeed, the High Court of Castellón has acquitted him of bribery and influence peddling, and has sentenced the former chief of the province and ex-leader of the provincial PP to four years in prison, plus a fine and a payment to the taxman totaling 1.4 million euros. His ex-wife has been given similar sentences.
This, in a sense, is a defeat for justice, as it has essentially been proven that between 1999 and 2004 — the year in which the investigation began — Fabra and his wife registered almost 600 cash deposits of “unexplained income” adding up to almost three million euros. The sentence thus passed is due not only to their failing to pay the tax they owed, but also to their attempt to cheat the tax authorities by falsifying data. Their wealth was, in any case, completely disproportionate to their income and assets. Neither the administration nor the courts have been able to trace the source of these funds; nor were they able to prove that the then-PP leader extorted money from the businessman who originally reported him for selling his influence with the national government in favor of this man’s company.
The sentences passed are shorter than those demanded by the anti-corruption prosecutor as a result of the High Court applying the extenuating factor of “undue delay” — a paradoxical advantage for the same politician who spent years stalling the trial as long as he could, to his own benefit. Fabra exemplifies a political caste that for decades has exercised regional power in the manner of a private possession. His poisoned legacy of the 150-million-euro Castellón airport (which is without airplanes, and includes a statue in his own honor), the mere maintenance of which costs the regional government four million euros a year, is an emblem of the waste and mismanagement of the Valencian PP.
But despite its limited reach, the sentence is important because it formally punishes one of the worst examples of shameful conduct in the PP, which in Valencia alone has no less than nine regional deputies formally named as suspects in corruption investigations. What’s more, its parliamentary group is demanding pardons for fellow members convicted of corruption, such as the mayor of Torrevieja.
It makes no sense for the PP to persist in protecting its leaders from punishment for their actions to the bitter end. Fabra no longer holds any office in the government or the party; but it is not true, as the party secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal suggested on Monday, that this situation is due to any long-term exclusion from public affairs. Fabra’s last public salary as provincial chief dates back to the summer of 2011; he was also the head of the Castellón PP until 2012, and the president of public company Aerocas until March 2013. He stepped back from these roles after nearly 10 years of legal wrangling, and only when the judges were about to sit him in the dock.