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Valencia’s Camps is off the hook, but something still smells rotten

The former Valencia regional premier has been absolved of wrongdoing in one of Spain’s most infamous corruption scandals. But his party isn’t popping open the champagne – nor should it.


Camps: laughing all the way to absolution. Photo: EFE.

Francisco Camps has reason to celebrate. The Popular Party’s former president of the Valencia region has been absolved of charges of taking bribes in the form of designer suits and other garments from a businessman at the heart of the Gürtel corruption scandal. After a two-week trial, the jury voted, five votes to four, that the accusations could not be proved.

But while Camps has expressed his joy at defeating the conspiracy he says was behind this case, his own party has been less jubilant. Virtually all the senior party figures who have responded to the verdict have advised Camps to take a break from politics, from Valencia mayor Rita Barberá to Alberto Fabra, his successor as regional leader after he stepped down to go on trial.

This tepidity on the part of the PP’s top brass seems to reflect the fact that Camps has not emerged untainted from a case that has highlighted the unsavoury way in which Valencia’s politics have been conducted by those in charge in recent years.

Firstly, recorded phone conversations used by the prosecution showed Camps calling Álvaro Pérez, the businessman the entire scandal has revolved around, “my soul mate”. “I love you loads,” Camps also told the moustachioed Pérez.

A large part of Camps’ defence rested on the notion that he had paid for several thousands euros in suits himself, in cash, without asking for or receiving receipts. The contradictory testimonies of employees at the tailors involved – apparently suggesting someone else was paying for the garments, then denying it – went a long way to getting Camps off the hook.

Another key testimony for Camps was that of Isabel Jordán, a former employee of the network being investigated. Three years ago she said she had paid for €30,000 in suits for Camps. Now herself charged in this case and also with being involved in illegal party financing with the PP, she has testified that Camps’s relationship with Pérez was “exclusively commercial.”

So Camps has been declared innocent. But in light of all the above and the sordid way in which politics, business and friendship seem to have become enmeshed in Valencia’s corridors of power, there is little for his party to celebrate. “A Louis Vuitton handbag is a perfectly normal present,” said Barberá earlier this month, when talking about the culture of giving politicians extravagant gifts. The infamous Pérez had been caught on tape talking about buying the Valencia mayor just such a handbag – but what should have been a tremendously embarrassing revelation was met with a shrug.

A sensible move by Prime Minister and PP leader Mariano Rajoy would be to lay down some rules about gifts his colleagues are offered from impresarios, journalists, and even voters, and to at least acknowledge that something needs to change in Valencia. After all, while Camps paid, according to his own testimony, €3,000 “in cash” for luxury clothes on one occasion, the region he was governing was running up a record deficit, leaving it close to defaulting on a payment to Deutsche Bank last month.

“This is the end of a bad dream that has seriously damaged the image of Valencia’s politics and its institutions,” said the PP’s Fabra on hearing the news of the verdict. He’s right: Valencia’s image is indeed on the floor. But he’d have to ask Francisco Camps why.

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Published: Jan 27 2012
Category: Iberoblog, Featured
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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