Spain’s chief judges recently held a meeting in Seville, and as a result have raised the alarm about the chronic lack of resources plaguing complicated corruption cases. Many of these cases will grind to a halt in ordinary courts, which not only are rarely given support but also must deal with their regular caseload.
The demand for more resources is based on experience: no one has a greater knowledge of the difficulties involved in these cases than the country’s chief judges. A report published in April of this year by Spain’s legal watchdog, the CGPJ, drew attention to the problem: at that time, 2,173 cases that were being dealt with were “particularly complex.” A total of 798 courts were charged with trying these cases. Of the total, 1,161 involved corruption, 302 of which were so-called “macro-cases,” which included a large number of official suspects and far-reaching ramifications.
Chief judges are calling for more resources at courts that are dealing with corruption cases or macro-cases — such as the sale of complex preferred shares to the general public — with more magistrates on hand to help. It’s a fair request, and one that should be addressed immediately, given that the proper functioning of the courts depends not only on justice being done in a timely fashion, but also that the confidence of the public return. Delays that courts are suffering in receiving the help that they need — such as those seen in the corruption investigation into the former provincial leader of Castellón, Carlos Fabra — or the difficulties being faced by judges handling sensitive cases — such as the probe into the king’s son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin — are eroding the general public’s confidence in the legal system.
Aware of these problems, and concerned about the practices that may be becoming embedded within bodies that support the justice system, the chief judges are also requesting a body of expert investigators, specializing in information technology and accounting, and which would report directly to the justice system. The recent strange goings-on in the Tax Office — including a mix-up over land deals mistakenly linked to the king’s daughter, Princess Cristina, and allegations that an investigation into a cement manufacturer was quashed by the agency’s management — no doubt have influenced this request.
The imbalance between the scant resources that judges have at their disposal and the abundance of resources that suspects in certain cases have is huge. If the fact that support bodies are not properly carrying out the tasks assigned to them is added to the equation, the damage could be irreparable. This situation needs to be addressed urgently, something that will only be possible if the required resources are given to judges, along with technical back-up whose independence can be guaranteed.