Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 17.8.21

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Note: One downside with WordPress is that those readers who’ve opted to receive posts by email will get the first version I publish – the one before a 3rd or 4th read-through an hour later reveals typing errors. Sorry about that. It’s hard to edit your own stuff when the brain sees what it wants to see.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

The Guardian reports here on some corporate skullduggery that beggars belief.

Things have reached a pretty pass when the police are issuing fines to those – in nearby Cangas and Aldán – who are trying to reserve beach/poolside spots with towels or chairs. This sort of thing doesn’t happen in Majorca.

I have 2 self-seeded palm trees on my front lawn. Recent growth has been explosive and I wonder if this is down to the depressingly wet first half of our summer along the western coast of Iberia.

Private Eye’s recent Letter from Madrid: The expression ‘las cloacas del estado’ – the sewers of the state – has become commonplace in Spain over the past decade. The plumber most often associated with their maintenance is Jose Manuel Villarejo, the ideal candidate to play bent copper H in a Spanish version of Line of Duty. 

Officially, Villarejo, now 69, left the force back in 1983 to set up a private investigation company. His clients are a list of the rich and powerful in our country for the past 40 years. Both socialist and conservative governments have been particularly fond of his services. So much so that they reincorporated him in the Policia Nacional and used his company to fill archives – and friendly newspapers – with dirt on Catalan independentistas, members of the left-wing Podemos party or King Juan Carlos’s former lover, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. 

In late 2017, Villarejo was arrested, accused of money laundering and running a criminal organisation. In his stand-off with the Spanish judiciary, the ‘comisario’ – who occasionally sports an eyepatch and argues he was doing for Spain what Spain could not officially do for itself- filtered documents and conversations laying bare some of the dodgy deals he had brokered. He has since been temporarily released from jail while he awaits trial for more than 30 criminal acts. 

The investigations into the murkier comers of the Spanish state have revealed that Villarejo wasn’t only accepting work from local patrons. An anonymous tip-off (later revealed to be from an intelligence agent) alerted fiscal authorities about connections between Spanish gutters and African pipelines. Tiny, oil-rich Equatorial Guinea is Spain’s only former colony in Africa south of the Sahara. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been the humble servant of his people since just 1979, when he overthrew his uncle. El Jefe once described the arrival of oil as like manna from heaven, although some of his people have benefited more than others: his eldest son Teodorin is vice-president, his second son Gabriel has run the oil ministry since the 1990s, and his brother-in-law Candido Nsue Okomo was the first head of the national oil company, GEPetrol. 

But even a gilded family is not always happy. Evidence presented in Spain suggests Don Candido found himself in touch with Villarejo to try to take down Gabriel, his rival for influence on oil deals – and to give a boost to his nephew Teodorin, then struggling to cement his claim as heir apparent after a conviction in France for corruption and a costly settlement with the US Justice Department. In a reversal of fortune that is almost comedic, it was the ridiculously high price of Villarejo’s dossier on Gabriel-€5m that put both Don Candido and Villarejo under the spotlight. 

Spanish prosecutors say Don Candido had been pumping oil money into a network of tax havens, siphoning more than €30m through shell companies in the Seychelles, Dubai and Switzerland. A large proportion of this money entered the EU via Spain, where it was mostly invested in real estate. Villarejo’s services were also paid with these funds. 

If Villarejo was the person giving advice to the Equatoguineans laundering money in Spain, the next question is obvious: Was he acting on his own behalf? Some of the answers might be extricated from Don Candido himself. Opposition sources say he effectively skipped bail in Dubai, from where Spanish authorities had hoped to extradite him. Now he is back home and keeping quiet – just what some well-connected people in Equatorial Guinea and Spain might have wanted! 

María’s Not So Fast: Afghanistan – The breaker of empires.

The UK 

Another bit from Private Eye . . . Football fans are horrified at ‘this minority in their midst’: England’s racist fans have described their shock and revulsion after discovering that one of the morons accused of tweeting racist abuse was possibly an estate agent. “Obviously, we’re as horrified as anyone else would be to find there may be estate agents in our ranks,” said a beer-swilling, pot-bellied thug. Estate agents are the lowest of the low and we will not tolerate them dragging our good racist names down to their level. With their flashy suits and cars, estate agents are symbolic of how the middle classes have ruined traditional football hooliganism. It’s disgusting! They’d rather be throwing prawn sandwiches at the referee than full cans of piss!” 


Richard North’s take on this mess. As good as any, I guess.

Social Media/The Way of the World

Dear dog! Social media influencers with more than 100,000 followers each are promoting methods to scam people out of money. They have videos and pictures on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat that promote their illegal lifestyle and encourage others to engage in similar criminal activity. They sell guides for between £30 and £100 explaining how to commit fraud against big retail brands, the universal credit system and other people.

Scotland: I asked if this were really true. It seems so.

Finally  . . .

 I’ve never really liked Bob Dylan . . .

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here.