Spain's Judges Begin Work on Backlog of Corruption Cases Involving 2,000 People

Princess Cristina lawyers
Lawyers of Spain's Infanta Cristina attend to media after she testified in front of judge Jose Castro over tax fraud and money-laundering charges in Palma de Mallorca February 8, 2014. Albert Gea/Reuters

Spanish judges will begin 2015 by dealing with a backlog of corruption cases left unresolved from last year, totalling at 150 according to Spanish daily newspaper El Pais which called the upcoming court proceedings "an inheritance from the past".

Several of these cases involve high profile persons and groups of defendants with European news agency Europa Press estimating the eventual verdicts will determine the fates of more than 2,000 individuals facing corruption charges.

Among these cases is the infamous 'Gurtel' case against Spanish businessman Francisco Correa which allegedly implicates Spain's ruling Partido Popular (PP) in bribery, tax evasion and money laundering. The total amount of public funds allegedly lost is estimated at no less than €120 million.

Also implicated in corruption charges and awaiting trial are Spain's Princess Cristina, sister of King Felipe VI, alongside her husband Iñaki Urdangarin.

Throughout 2014 issues of corruption at the highest level of Spanish authority became a leading issue in the country, causing widespread disenchantment with politics and public institutions and being reflected in the meteoric rise of grassroots, anti-establishment party Podemos, which is currently ahead the polls, despite being less than a year old.

Spain's two oldest parties the conservative PP and socialist PSOE have since shifted their rhetoric to address the concerns highlighted by Podemos and their ponytailed former politics professor leader, Pablo Iglesias.

According to El Pais, the majority of these cases are planned to be heard by 2015, though some are scheduled for 2016 at the latest. In some, such as the high profile Gurtel case, proceedings have stalled for years and not all of the suspects have even appeared in court yet despite the case dating as far back as 2009.

Among the first major corruption cases to come in session will be the embezzlement scandal involving former Catalan president Jordi Pujol on the 27 of January, who publicly confessed last year to having offshore accounts throughout his 23-year presidency.

The judicial investigation into alleged corruption behind the biggest ever bank failure in Spain's history, called the 'Bankia case' is also supposedly going to get off the ground in 2015 after a breakthrough in late 2014 which found "irregularities" in the accounts of 82 employees of Caja Madrid bank.

In December 2014 the Spanish financial fraud watchdog FROB (Fondo de Reestructuración Ordenada Bancaria) found that over €15 million was claimed by the 82 Caja Madrid employees as "personal expenses" over a 12-year period, while symmetrically the bank's highest CEOs netted an extra €15 million off the books in the latter stages of this period.

Caja Madrid is the largest of several savings banks which made up the Bankia conglomerate, the failure of which in 2012 forced the Spanish government into bailing it out at a cost of €19 billion.

Ironically, an Ernst and Young investigation of corruption in Spain in 2013 pointed out that the judiciary was "most corrupt", while subsequent investigations in 2014 have shown the problem continues to be serious in Spain as the World Economic Forum's 2013-14 report argued bribery and corruption continues to be "commonplace" in the country.

Spain will go to the polls in 2015 and the rise of anti-corruption Podemos has prompted both the PP and PSOE to make efforts in addressing long standing corruption scandals to attract voters.