SPAIN’S government has insisted that ‘the law is the same for everyone’ in the face of public outrage over the apparently lenient sentences faced by bank bosses and politicians in the ‘Black Cards’ scandal and former Duke of Palma Iñaki Urdangarín’s being released without bail.
Ex-directors of the now-defunct CAM bank, who include Rodrigo Rato (pictured) – former International Monetary Fund (FMI) chair and economy minister under one-time president José María Aznar – and Bankia chairman Miguel Blesa, have been sentenced to four-and-a-half and six years in jail respectively for multi-million tax evasion.
Key management figures and directors of the CAM had been using their company credit cards for personal and leisure expenses – including holidays, alcohol and meals out – meaning these costs were automatically offset against their income tax.
In the meantime, King Felipe’s brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarín and his co-director in the Nóos Institute, Diego Torres, have been sentenced to six and eight years respectively for public fund embezzlement – but released without bail.
They intend to appeal their sentences – reduced from prosecutor Pedro Horrach’s original recommedation of 19 and 26 years – which could take months or even years, and in the meantime they can continue with their lives without penalty.
In the ‘Black Cards’ or ‘Tarjetas B’ case, Blesa, Rato and former media director-general Ildefonso Sánchez Barcoj are considered the main authors of the major tax fraud – with the latter being sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail – with the others considered mere ‘cooperators’.
Sentences have been reduced for those who refunded the unpaid tax amounts to Bankia or to the Ordered Banking Restructure Fund (FROB) and, under Spanish law, any custodial terms for a first offence do not have to be served unless they are for at least two years.
The short prison terms faced by Blesa, Rato and Barcoj, and Urdangarín being released without bail, have caused outrage among Spanish society as members of the public compare their cases with those of rehabilitated drug-users who, now married with children and jobs, are sentenced to two or three years in jail for minor dealing in their youth, or lone parents in poverty buying food and nappies with stolen credit cards.
Public fury is especially high given that the solicitor representing Urdangarín remains ‘confident’ his client will never end up having to go to prison – and the likelihood that others found guilty of fraud, including Rato and Blesa, might also end up avoiding a custodial term by paying a fine.
Many of the parties involved in the ‘Tarjetas Black’ case are politicians, largely on the right-wing PP party which has been in power in Spain since November 2011.
But government spokesman Íñigo Méndez de Vigo insists ‘the law is the same for everyone’, irrespective of who they are.
“Although sentences sometimes take a long time to arrive, they get there in the end,” he stresses.