Corruption is Drowning Spain

Published on 19/01/2010 in Investing in Spanish Property

Well it has finally come to pass - the full extent of corruption in Spain is being openly discussed and debated by leading media commentators - on 1 November ABC, Spain's leading centre newspaper, published a comprehensive report on corruption throughout Spain with the front page headline: "Corruption is Drowning Spain"

Corruption in SpainI started writing my crime thriller novel, Deadly Secrets (, which involves urban planning based corruption in southern Spain, in early 2006. Soon after the Marbella Malaya case broke and since then there have been a plethora of corruption cases across all of Spain. However, until now, whilst arrests and individual cases have been reported in the media there as been very little attempt by the heavyweight national media to debate in detail the actual causes and effects of corruption on Spain.

In my article on corruption in Spain, which was written in August 2009 and published in October 2009 I argued that corruption was rife in Spain due to the de-centralisation of planning powers to the regional governments and town halls; the economic boom in Spain; and the fact that, until relatively recently, Spain was a poor country so a get rich quick attitude took hold and the system was (and still is) conducive to corruption being the quickest and easiest way for politicians and businessmen to achieve massive economic gains. In short, Spain is still politically and socio-economically immature versus the other democratic G8 countries which it aspires to be a part of.

The ABC articles and editorial comment basically repeated what I had written but in more detail - pat on the back for me! In essence, it confirmed that the majority of corruption is based around urban planning, especially the re-classification of rustic land to urban land (the main theme of my novel), and the granting of favourable contracts to services companies owned and operated by "friends" of the political party in power. It stressed that corruption was endemic across all political parties and that it was greed and power which drove it rather than any particular political ideology. It also confirmed that lack of accountability and transparency, poor planning regulations and failures in the judicial system are compounding, if not encouraging, large scale corruption.

So what does it all mean? Well, in the words of ABC "We either stop this bleeding away of what prestige is left of our model or we bleed dry as a democracy, at the same time as we disappear down the foul smelling sewage pipe of corruption."

Harsh? I don't think so. I've been here long enough and seen enough of how the "system" works that corruption is definitely undermining the social, economic and political fabric of Spain - more from an outsiders perspective than the Spaniards themselves, the majority of whom seem to consider corruption a natural part of the economic process. Now, let's be fair, we have corruption all over the world, but it is the scale of corruption in Spain - it is now believed that corruption moves more money in Spain than illegal drugs, and the fact it is so engrained throughout the system which makes it different. MPs expenses are nothing but a drop in the ocean compared to what goes on here - with bribes from 100,000 euros for an "introduction" to the mayor or urban planning officer to ten million euros for the reclassification of land (not including the gain made once reclassification has been granted).

Personally I think it is totally unacceptable that a democratic country of over 45 million people, and which has basically lived off EU aid for the last 25 years, has this level of corruption. Let's hope that the debate started by ABC bears fruit in terms of changes to the powers town halls and regional governments have and also how town halls and political parties are financed. Unfortunately, I think its going to be a long slow process because it also involves a change of culture, something which can take generations (anywhere in the world).

For those of you interested my article on what shapes Spanish character and culture may help to put some of this into perspective at:

If you want a good (fictional) read: "A very slick and well written novel, well researched and coherent. I was impressed." Kitty Sewell, bestselling author of Ice Trap then I suggest you buy Deadly Secrets - either from Bookworld Espana or via

Written by: Robert Tenison (Deadly Sectrets)

About the author:

Anglo-spaniard, 25+ years of living and working in Spain.  Author of Deadly Secrets, a crime thriller involving corruption, money laundering and murder in Andalucia:  "A very slick and well written novel, well researched and coherent.  I was impressed."  Kitty Sewell, bestselling author of Ice Trap.

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jonb said:
12 December 2013 @ 01:36

Corruption and lying are endemic in Spain. It is part of the legacy of years of fascism. We see the same in Argentina, Venezuela and other Hispanic countries. The present PP right wing government is made up of and funded by the well placed heirs of the old Franco regime supporters. Watch Spanish Debate programmes which are aired every night and you will see how the different political parties are more interested in slagging each other off in their bid for power than trying to work for the good of their country.We have recently seen the age old fascist propaganda tactic of trying to use Gibraltar as a smokescreen to veer public attention from the real issues of corruption and scandal. Argentina did the same with the Falklands when the military dictator Galtieri was in power, albeit in a much more drastic fashion. Same dog different collar. Time the EU put Spain in its place.

komal sihani said:
26 August 2011 @ 16:35

we should be against corruption

Wayne Judson said:
16 July 2011 @ 18:22

Spains Laws are inadiquate as a whole, and the corruption from Local National and Civil Guard( which to me the meare precence of a Civil Guard dos not suggest FULL DEMOCRACY) pluss all the corruption in town hall's, suggests that Spain gaind its democracey far to quickly. the Death of Franco turnd Spain fron Dictatorship into a so called Democracy, over night. They clearly do not know what to do with their democracy. I'll be minister for Justice.

robert said:
31 March 2010 @ 01:12

it is incredible that an EU country can operate like this against the human rights of members of other EU nations
with all the interference Uk gets from Brussels how come they are so quite with regard to Spain

The EU should stop pumping so much money into Spain as an incentive for spain to reform their legal system

Neil M said:
20 January 2010 @ 12:38

Your articals are spot on.
Spain has come a long way since the death of Franco the problem is in my opinion that most of the laws and the legal system have not been reformed and are still back in the days of a dictatorship. So basically in most cases the government can not be seen to be wrong and the laws are wound up in reams of slow moving often corrupt red tape.
Things will change they will have to if Spain wants to remain being a major player in the modern world. I do not think it will be a quick process it will be a hard and painful process for many and I think it will get worse before it gets better and much of the Spanish culture will have to change. But get better it will. So if you can wait 10 or 15 years for the changes then Spain will once again be a good place to buy into, but don't hold your breath.

Eye on Spain Article said:
20 January 2010 @ 00:19

Hundreds of property sales are showing the corruption & we are not able to do anything about it without spending huge amounts of money on lawyers, even then it will take years to get any justice. I feel the Spanish Government should start sorting out the Legal Side by starting with laws to control ALL purchases of Property. Why are we paying rates on property that have not Habitation Certificates ???? could be a good place to start, what say you

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