“Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”

Published on 16/03/2009 in Investing in Spanish Property

CorruptionLord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 observed that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

The most recent wave of Town Hall corruption proceedings in Malaga province, now numbering eleven separate actions against Mayors and other related Municipal officials are clearly flushing out corruption on a grand scale.

Did the form of local government adopted by the Spanish system favour such opportunists or did the absence of concentrated central government control allow these public servants to create their own fiefdoms where their word was law and their signature could alter land classifications at will lining many pockets in the process.

Are these officials, drawn from those who previously plied their trade as waiters, brickies and the like, “great men” or “bad men” or are they simply the victims of a greedy imperative to make hay whilst the sun shines. Whatever the cause they have caught, throttled and stuffed the golden goose with such enthusiasm that collectively they can shoulder a huge debt of responsibility for the current state of the Spanish property market. Turning a once aspirational paradise into a den of thieves where would be buyers proceed only with the upmost caution assuming that they are going to be shafted at every turn.

Didn’t anyone see this coming!

This is a collective bank raid on a systematic basis going back many years. I suspect there are many now retired officials breathing heavy sighs of relief that they have not been implicated. Or does the rot simply go too deep to excise? Err… and what’s more does it still?

The very charming and intelligent new Mayor of Marbella has taken a root and branch approach to these issues. The Marbella story is not one of white wash and spin but the new administration – I have been told - has introduced a number of hermetically sealed checks and balances that are aimed at assuring the outside world that these horror headlines can never occur again. Let’s hope so. Now very conscious that the sullying of the reputation of Marbella has occurred from the years of pillage the new administration has set it sites on reaching out to restore confidence. It’s a slow process but many believe – me included – that it’s worth the effort.

The principal of a major property sales agency – who are still active on the Costa del Sol – has noted that Marbella is now one of the safest places to buy a property in Spain particularly if the purchase is being made with mortgage funds. Bank lenders – those still keen to lend – will usually ask their team of lawyers to crawl all over a particular development to ensure that it has a completely clean bill of health – and only then will they lend against it.

Talking to some British visitors last week they reported that the current image of the Costa del Sol in the UK is something akin to a stubborn “social” disease. However, they are also aware that all will not be as it is currently and the corner will be turned. The actions taken against the Town Hall officials will result in prison sentences, prohibitions from holding public office and the sequestration of assets but as the dust starts to settle I suspect our estate agency colleague’s prediction will start to be as true for other municipalities in addition to Marbella.

Combine the Town Hall clean up with the very real opportunities to buy so called “distressed” property at heavily discounted prices it surely is a matter of time before the lure of the sun, the golf and crystal blue water charms a whole new generation of potential purchasers. However, it’s clear that these informed buyers will hold their “Caveat Emptor” banner high in the air – they will not be conned, ripped off or mislead by a dodgy Town Hall official – they now pretty much know where the bodies are buried and will leave no stone unturned in their due diligence to satisfy themselves that the victim culture must be a thing of the past.

“Lest we forget” – I know that it can be a truly exciting experience seeking out your perfect home overseas – but don’t allow the thrill to cause you to drop your guard. Just so you know - and with particular thanks to our colleagues at www.typicallyspanish.com - the currently publicised cases of real estate corruption in the province of Malaga are as follows:

Marbella – the Malaya case with the GIL party in the centre
Alhaurín el Grande – where the PP is at the centre of the Troya case
Estepona – where the Socialists face the Astapa case
Manilva – where the Ballena Blanca money laundering case affects the local PDEM party
Gaucín - where the ex Partido Andalucista Mayor has been banned from public office for seven years
Cómpeta - where the PP ex Mayor has been banned for seven years
Tolox and Ojén - where the prosecutor wants to see both Mayors from the Partido Andalucista and PSOE Socialist party serve two years in prison
Ronda – Where in the Merinos case the left wingers IU have complained about the PA
La Viñuela – where the Socialist Mayor faces a possible 18 months jail
And Sayalonga – where the Socialist Mayor is charged.

If you are buying or looking to buy in any of the above municipalities please, please do yourself a favour and hire a wholly independent and experienced professional advisor to guide you through the entire process and – even if it saves a few quid - don’t be tempted to cut corners.

Written by: Mark FR Wilkins

About the author:The Rights Group SL
0034 600 343 917

© The Rights Group SL 2007 (Marbella)

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Susanspain said:
24 February 2014 @ 20:53

I would like to see an update to this article. We are now nearly 5 years on. Finally the mayor of Alhaurin el Grande has been 'suspended' from his office for 12 months. (He avoided actual jail time by paying a Eu300,000 fine???) He still protests his innocence. What is going on?!

Henry Crun said:
18 July 2011 @ 21:55

Spain is a corrupt shithole .The more the sun shines , the more the shit stinks .

norman said:
13 April 2011 @ 17:04

Coruption is all over the world and coruption is not the problem.
The problem is ,the aceptance of coruption.
People are ignorant of their rights and too comfortable to learn or rise up.
Get rid of lawyers and teach law ,make a law that if you do not know the law you will not leave school.Law in school should be compulsory because its the only subject where ignorance is no excuse.You now no how the world is run,not only by coruption but by deception first.The law is there to keep you enslaved.

Susan said:
22 November 2009 @ 17:14

Printing specific areas does not help one bit. Corruption is across all of Spain; the legal issues of purchasing a house in one area are not different to another.

normansands said:
17 March 2009 @ 11:01

Client - Caveat Emptor - due diligence - ask all the questions - do the research - understand the answers and results - be an expert in all things.
Then pay a ransom to an "independent" lawyer to do formality paperwork.
When he is the all-knowing crook that has facilitated the transaction by his connivance and without which it could never have happened in the first place.

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