Dodgy Spanish ratbags

All the talk of “envelopes” in Spain with their corruption trials running makes me wonder if Winston isn’t moonlighting over there advising them.

We will know for sure if it turns out instead of cash there were undeclared airline travel vouchers used.

For 20 years, Luis Bárcenas toiled in obscurity for Spain’s governing Popular Party, working as a bookkeeper and treasurer. These days when he walks the streets of Madrid in his signature chesterfield coat, strangers lash out at him with just one word: “Envelope!”

While Spaniards suffer with the sacrifices of government-imposed austerity, Spain’s top politicians, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, have been accused in a widening scandal of pocketing envelopes of cash sometimes amounting to nearly $35,000 a year for nearly two decades. Mr. Bárcenas is suspected of distributing the illicit payments in an elaborate scheme to finance the party and enrich its leadership. 

Having started as a low-level case, the scandal has now reached the very top of the political pyramid, with fresh disclosures emerging almost daily, directly threatening Mr. Rajoy’s government and rattling financial markets. It has fueled public anger among Spaniards — like their southern European counterparts in Greece and Italy — who have seen traditions of institutionalized graft exposed by the downturn in Europe’s economy.

The scandal has also shined an uncomfortable light on how the political parties operate and their clubby relations with a corporate elite in an alliance that stifles competition throughout the economy — to the detriment of the middle and lower classes.

“In Spain, there is a perverse system in the way that political parties are financed,” said Jorge Trías Sagnier, a former conservative lawmaker. “It was public knowledge that there were ‘envelope salaries’ for the parties.”

In an effort to quell the clamor, Mr. Rajoy publicly recently released his tax returns — a first for a prime minister here — and called for a vigorous internal investigation of the party’s finances. But critics charge that Mr. Rajoy showed no interest four years ago in pursuing accusations that party members had amassed wealth beyond official salaries, benefiting from a decade-long property boom and the largess of construction companies that provided cash, luxury Patek Philippe watches, Caribbean vacations and birthday parties in return for no-bid contracts and development rights.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.