If you have time free and fancy listening to a rollercoaster tale worthy of an international best seller then you really should drop down to Malaga. This week, a trial started there that is bound to fascinate Spain for the year it is estimated to last. The trial has an incredible 95 defendants – and revolves around Marbella and a demonstration of corruption in Spain that is, quite simply, breathtaking!
The story is fantastic and takes most of our knowledge of corruption in Spain to new levels. To indicate this, let me tell you that when the corruption in Marbella unravelled, in 2006, the Spanish police seized an astonishing 2.4 billion Euros of cash and assets. This included 830,000 Euros in cash, 275 works of art, 103 horses, 14 cars, 24 historical weapons, five kilos of jewellery and a helicopter!!
The chief protagonist was a man called Antonio Roca, who was head of urban planning for Marbella. Roca, in just a few years went from being an unemployed builder to one of the richest people in Spain. At one time, he was using nine different mobile phones and owned several hotels and fincas, a ranch with thoroughbred horses and fighting bulls, a private jet, vintage cars and an art collection that included Miro paintings.
Now, you may have thought that a head of town planning anywhere in the world might excite some suspicion, if he had gone from nothing to colossol wealth. However, Roca had an answer to this, which clearly kept the authorities at bay.
Roca claimed that his money came from having won the lottery some eighty times during his lifetime!
Who could possibly have doubted him!
If you want to read the full story on this, have a look at an article I wrote (under one of my noms de plume!) entitled ‘Meltdown in Marbella – The Godfather, Mr Clean and a Facelift’. It is a wonderful tale and makes for engrossing reading…
Actually, of course, in Spain corruption is not really a source of too much amusement – if you are directly affected by it. In the case of the people in Marbella, the Roca episode was far from a laugh, when many found that their life in Spain had become a nightmare. At one stage, some 18,000 properties were blighted by potential illegality, which could have led to demolition.
I remember being rather shocked when the Marbella corruption scandal first erupted. However, that was nothing compared to hearing the response to it of very good Madrileno friend of mine. He tutted at me in that peculiarly Spanish way and said: ‘Marbella – it’s just the tip of the iceberg’.
Some ‘tip’ some ‘iceberg’ – if he is correct!
In reality, I suspect that in Spain corruption is mostly related to property and the construction industry. At least, I hope that this is the case – as it should now have subsided along with the Spanish property slump…