Spotlight: Fighting corruption in Spain

All the questions

Application: domestic bribery

In recent years, Spain has seen a series of domestic corruption cases involving well-known Spanish politicians and businessmen. These cases attracted worldwide media attention due to the public profile of those involved and the amount of funds defrauded, which revealed widespread corruption among Spain’s main political parties.

Specialized law enforcement bodies have been created to investigate such corruption cases, such as the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, as well as special police units. The Criminal Law Section of the Spanish National Court is responsible for trying the most difficult corruption cases involving multiple parties and jurisdictions.

Some of the most high-profile corruption cases that Spanish authorities have recently investigated include the following.

i The Punica investigation

The punica investigation is an ongoing investigation, which began in 2013, into an extensive government contract bribery ring that involves several Spanish political leaders – mostly members of Spain’s Partido Popular (PP) – and businessmen. business. Under this scheme, government officials awarded government contracts to various businessmen in return for bribes. Criminal offenses under investigation include influence peddling and money laundering. The embezzled funds amount to 250 million euros.

ii The Gürtel Inquiry

The Gürtel investigation was another scandal involving bribes in exchange for public contracts that affected prominent Spanish businessmen and local PP leaders. This scheme involved bribes paid to PP officials and used to illegally finance the party, as well as tax and accounting fraud and money laundering. The embezzled funds amount to 123 million euros. This case was also important since the former Spanish Prime Minister was called to testify as a witness during the legal proceedings. Although he was not implicated as a co-conspirator, he was the first sitting prime minister called to give evidence in a criminal investigation. The court also found that the PP enjoyed the effects of the criminal offense by obtaining financial gain.

iii The Lezo Investigation

The Lezo The investigation focuses on another corruption scandal within the Madrid division of the PP between 2003 and 2015, which also affects several well-known Spanish companies (including a leading construction company). The investigation focuses on whether funds were channeled through a state-owned company for the benefit of PP members and involve illegal funding of political parties and foreign bribery.

Enforcement: foreign bribery and associated offenses

Although Spain has correctly transposed the international agreements on corruption highlighted above, very few investigations have been opened in Spain concerning the bribery of foreign public officials, and only one trial has ended with the conviction of an individual for a foreign bribery offence.56

One of the alleged foreign bribery investigations currently underway and widely publicized in Spain is the Defex Mercasa case, which concerns two public companies accused of having paid millions in bribes to obtain arms contracts abroad.