The global fight against bribery and corruption saw some positive events recently. One involved the brother-in-law from the King of Spain, who was sentenced to jail after a guilty finding of fraud and corruption. Reports indicated that Inaki Urdangarin, husband to Princess Cristiana, the sister of the King of Spain, was involved with illegal conduct during his tenure as the head of a non-profit institute that developed sporting and tourism-related tours and event. While prosecutors had asked for a jail term of up to 19 years, the court delivered a sentence of six years in jail. The Princess was found not guilty of criminal tax fraud and was found civilly liable, ordered to pay a €265,000.
The verdict was widely applauded in Spain where the phrase “no one is above the law” is not as well-taken as it is in common law countries. It was the first prosecution of major public figures and leading bankers from the most recent Spanish financial crisis. Urdangarin and his business partners were found to have defrauded local and regional governments in the costs of the services they delivered and they also embezzled funds from the same governmental units. It was also the first time a member of the Spanish royal family had been forced to even stand trial, let alone receive a criminal conviction.
Why is this conviction important to The Man From FCPA and indeed to the greater global fight against bribery and corruption? It demonstrated the will of the Spanish polis to begin to fight legally against the perceived failings of the Spanish elite both before and during the recent Spanish boom and bust cycle. Now prosecutors are investigating banks that may have facilitated these criminal activities through market manipulation and money-laundering.
Imagine if the United States had taken a similar tack after the 2008 financial crisis, where none of the perpetrators were prosecuted for any type of financial crime or fraud. Moreover, the ongoing Spanish investigations demonstrate that bribery and corruption never occurs in a vacuum, there are always ancillary players who aid and abet the crimes by facilitating the movement of the money.
The Man From FCPA can only applaud the Spanish efforts.