September 23 2022: Judicial corruption; Translation differences; A shocking tale from the 1930s; Wunderland; & Other stuff.

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Awake! For, Morning, in the Bowl of Night, has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight
And, Lo, has caught the Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza 

There’s a judge in Spain who has remarkable – and unhidden – right wing sympathies and left-wing antipathies. This is a shocking article on his failure to pursue PP corruption and his obsession with opening specious cases against the PSOE and Podemos. There’s a (slightly improved machine) translation below. 

Which reminds me . . . I often suspect that articles in English from The Corner have been translated from Spanish, the literary styles being rather different. I checked this out and, yes, soon came up with the original Spanish version of this article. It reads better than the English one, in my view. The latter sounding rather convoluted.

This is the shocking tale of the man who dared to finance a satirical magazine in the Spain of the mid 1930s and then – rather stupidly – stayed in Valencia as the revolting Nationalists took it over.

I’m not sure this will be of interest/relevance to many readers . . . What you get for £2.75 million in the UK and Spain. Actually just Majorca. Where you’ll probably get a lot of German neighbours.

María’s Beginning Over 24: End of summer.

The UK

Everyone living there needs to know what interconnectors are, what they normally do, and what they might not do this winter. This might help. Thank god, it seems, for French nuclear reactors, the UK having stupidly given up on their own.

The EU

As that article makes clear, ‘solidarity’ might be put under a severe test this winter, should the Devil take the hindmost . . .

Germany

I’ve been twice to this wonderful place in Hamburg. Be prepared to wait quite a while at peak periods. Nice spice museum nearby too.

The Way of the World/Quote of the Day

The 2022 Qatar World Cup, due to kick off in late November, has turned into a decade-long exercise by the football authorities in defending the indefensible. Rather than admit that there is no justification for giving the world’s most prized football tournament to a despotic regime, they kid themselves and insult everyone else by pretending to take a principled stance on human rights while actually saying nothing of significance and doing even less. More here.

All about money, of course. Rather like the camino here in Spain, some say. Of which there are now more than 50.

Finally   . . . .   

To amuse . . . A news item which might or might not be genuine but is certainly accurate . . .

Welcome to new subscriber: C McKinney, who looks like a genuine reader,

For new readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.

THE ARTICLE  

Who is Judge García Castellón: as hard against Podemos as he is lax with PP: The judge investigating the ‘Kitchen’ case and who refuses to charge Cospedal was for 17 years in lower-paying posts, appointed by the [right-wing PP]governments of Aznar and Rajoy. Ignacio Escolar

García Castellón refuses to impute Cospedal in the Kitchen case contrary to the criteria of the Anticorruption Department

And then they wonder why Spain is one of the EU countries where citizens trust less in justice. 

Tuesday 13 September 2022. The same day that 8 members are appointed by the PP – completely illegally – to the General Council of the Judiciary, Judge Manuel García Castellón gives us another example to explain why the Right puts so much effort in controlling justice in their favor. This judge of the Audiencia Nacional has refused to charge María Dolores de Cospedal in the Kitchen case. Despite the audios. Despite the numerous indications. Despite the criteria of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.

I will summarize the data, which speak for themselves.

On January 18, 2013, El Mundo published the first information about the Bárcenas papers: about that black accounting with the PP’s envelopes. That same day, María Dolores de Cospedal spoke with [corrupt police]Commissioner Villarejo and commissioned him to intervene on behalf of the party. “That little book (of Bárcenas, it) would be better to stop it,” Cospedal told Villarejo.

The “little book” was the famous papers of Barcenas: the evidence of the Caja B. And the person who commissioned the commissioner to stop it was not only then the president of Castilla-La Mancha. She was also the number two of the PP.

Villarejo, as he always did, recorded that conversation. An audio that has not been known until very recently: until this May, when it was published by El País. It is a recording – like many others – that, until now, was not part of the judicial summary because the National Cryptologic Center (which depends on the CNI) assures that it has been unable to decipher Villarejo’s recordings completely. 

The Ministry of Justice seized 40 terabytes of audios, most of them encrypted. For unclear reasons – Villarejo says that the password is the same, although he does not want to reveal it – the CNI has only decrypted half of them. 

Faced with this new evidence that appeared in the press, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the rest of the accusations asked Judge García Castellón to reopen the investigation of Kitchen, which this judge ended by limiting what happened to the Ministry of the Interior, saving the leadership of the Government and the PP.

With these audios in hand, Anticorruption asked ten days ago to charge Cospedal again and call her again to testify. Because this recording demonstrates several things very relevant to the investigation.

First, that Cospedal lied. Not to the press: to the judge himself. When she testified as a defendant, in June 2021, Cospedal assured that she had never made any order to Villarejo. It is now obvious that this was not true.

Second, that this was never a spontaneous operation of the Ministry of Interior; that there were political officials interested in “stopping” the evidence that Barcenas had against the PP. And remember that what Cospedal asked Villarejo was not just a wish in the wind: that is exactly what happened. 

A few months after that conversation the “Operation Kitchen” was launched, which was so called because they were going to sneak[colar] “into the kitchen” of Luis Bárcenas (other sources claim that Villarejo called it that because he said that Bárcenas’ chauffeur “looked like a cook”). It was an illegal operation that involved dozens of police agents to locate and destroy all the evidence that the PP treasurer kept against who was then the president of the Government, Mariano Rajoy.

It was a success. They managed to destroy the documents that Bárcenas was hiding, and which compromised the PP.

Despite these remarkable indications, García Castellón does not go any further. He has commissioned the police to “analyze” the new audios in a separate piece – as if all this were unrelated to the kitchen, in its central trunk -, but rejects the reopening of the investigation. 

According to the Anticorrupción Department, the new audios show that the real content of the meetings between Villarejo and Cospedal “was none other than to implement a strategy to make part of the evidence that could affect the Popular Party disappear”.

García Castellón does not see it the same way. For the judge, the only ones responsible for what happened who can be judged are the commanders of the Ministry of Interior: a few commissioners, the former Secretary of State Francisco Martinez and former Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz. They did everything at their own risk: without entrusting themselves to anyone else. 

To think that a minister would mount an operation of this magnitude without anyone else knowing about it in the party or the government is hard to believe. But we are not talking about suspicions, although they may seem obvious if we apply the same logic that has condemned Chaves and Griñán because “they could not not not know”. We are talking about very clear indications, which according to Anticorrupción point to the leadership of the PP.

Manuel García Castellón wants to close the investigation without even questioning Cospedal again, so that she can explain why she lied. It is not the first favor he does to the PP for his way of acting with the investigation.

For months, throughout 2020, García Castellón refused to charge María Dolores de Cospedal, despite the first indications; of the audios that were already known. The argument is that they had to wait for Francisco Martínez, the number two of Interior, to see what he said about his conversations with Cospedal.

When Martínez finally went to testify, he refused to answer the questions of the lawyers for the prosecution and the Prosecutor’s Office. He only answered the interrogation of his own lawyer and that of Judge García Castellón, who asked him everything but the fundamental questions: not one question about María Dolores de Cospedal.

After refusing to charge Cospedal because Martínez had not been heard . . . . Martínez arrived and was not asked about Cospedal.

Finally, the judge gave in, but only a little. He charged Cospedal, took her statement. He dismissed the charges against her and her husband just a month later. Now, in the face of new evidence, he refuses to reopen the investigation. 

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office itself, in one of its writings, explained what happened with these words about Judge García Castellón: “There is a categorical refusal to continue investigating in that direction, as if a cordon or unacceptable red line had been established that could not be crossed in the investigation”.

En román paladino[In plain language]: Anticorrupción complained in writing that the judge was doing everything possible not to investigate the Kitchen political plot; a “red line” for García Castellón. 

Important fact: the head of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, Alejandro Luzón, is still the same one who appointed the Prosecutor’s Office during Rajoy’s government. It has not changed with the coalition government. We are not talking about an Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of Podemos, if that is what some may infer.

García Castellón has also ensured that the main beneficiary of this whole operation, the head of the party, the same one to whom many indications also point, has not even been called to testify. Neither as a defendant nor as a witness. I am referring to “El Barbas”, the “Asturian”: the former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

There is not enough evidence, says the judge. And beware: we are not talking about the fact that there is no evidence to convict, that part in a criminal proceeding comes much later. It is that, in the opinion of García Castellón, there is not even enough evidence to call Rajoy to testify. 

Manuel García Castellón is such a guarantor when it comes to the ex-president of the Government that he does not even mention him by name. He is like Lord Voldemort.

In the order of a year ago where he closed the investigation of the Kitchen -70 pages, where he tells his version of what happened- García Castellón achieves an unparalleled success: explaining the entire Kitchen case without expressly mentioning Rajoy on a single occasion. “No diligence allows us to sustain” -assures the judge- “that Mr. Villarejo had direct communication with any president or prime minister”. That president you are talking about, as M. Rajoy would say.

The judge that Ignacio González wanted

Given what happened with Kitchen and María Dolores de Cospedal, it is inevitable to remember that conversation that Eduardo Zaplana and Ignacio González had, when they recommended the return of Manuel García Castellón to the National Court.  Perhaps they remember that story. I told it in great detail in 2017, in this previous article: The strange case of the judge who wanted to charge less and work more. 

Zaplana and González – now both indicted for corruption – were recorded by the Guardia Civil in a compromising conversation. Both thought that nobody heard them. They were both very careful with the phone, but they could not imagine that the UCO had installed microphones in Gonzalez’s office where they had met to conspire. It was 2016 and Gonzalez was very worried because it was going badly. Despite the fact that Rajoy was presiding over the Government, the Ministry Justice did not stop him from being cuddled[achuchar] by the courts. 

The quotation that I cite now is not a reconstruction: it is a literal paragraph of that recording, from November 22, 2016.

Ignacio González: “Let’s see, Eduardo. We have the Government, the Ministry of Justice I don’t know what and such. And listen, we have a judge who is provisional… You promote him… I tell him, let’s see, come here. What is the place that you have? Onteniente, fuck Onteniente and let the incumbent come here, I’ll deal with the incumbent, fuck!”

The provisional judge who had to be sent “to fuck Onteniente” was Eloy Velasco. A conservative judge – he had been director general of Justice of the Generalitat with Zaplana and Camps – but who at that time was tightening the screws on the PP.  The head judge with whom González was planning to deal with, the judge he preferred to have as an instructor of his criminal case, was Manuel García Castellón. 

Said and done. Gonzalez’s prediction was fulfilled. Something that not only happened with this example: he also got it right with the appointment as head of Anticorruption of Manuel Moix. 

It was obvious that the corrupt Gonzalez had very good information. According to the summary, he talked a lot with the Minister of Justice at the time, Rafael Catalá. Or with Enrique Lopez, today Justice Counselor of Ayuso and then judge of the Audiencia Nacional. Or with Enrique Arnaldo, today judge of the Constitutional Court. Or with Pedro González Trevijano, today president of the Constitutional Court.

Eloy Velasco was not sent “to take it up the ass to Onteniente”. The right wing is more refined. The CGPJ (the same PP members who today break the law) promoted him to the Appeals Chamber of the Audiencia Nacional. The court he occupied was put out to competition: the Central Court of Instruction number 6 of the Audiencia Nacional. But in due course, before some uncontrolled judge arrived, Manuel García Castellón returned to the court he had left 17 years earlier. 

Return to the Audiencia Nacional

Some biographical data to explain his career and his return to the court where he works today. Manuel García Castellón passed the competitive examinations on August 9, 1982. He joined the conservative association, the APM, where he became the treasurer. After some unimportant first positions, in 1993 he joined the National Court. First as a reinforcement judge: a position that is usually decided by the CGPJ in a discretionary manner. His first assignment was to replace Baltasar Garzón in Central number 5, when he ran for election on the PSOE lists. Later he became the head of Central number 6. 

There he handled several high-profile cases: the investigation of Banesto, the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Miguel Angel Blanco and the ETA attack against Aznar.

In the year 2000, after seven years in the National Court, García Castellón achieved a golden position, one of the most sought-after posts in the judiciary: to be appointed as a liaison magistrate in France. This post is an appointment that depends directly on the Government. One does not get there by points, merit or competition. It is a sort of judicial embassy where one earns a lot and usually works very little.  In the BOE you can read the decree with the appointment “at the joint proposal of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice”. It is signed in person by “Vice President Mariano Rajoy”. 

At that time, Manuel García Castellón, illustrious liaison judge in France, barely knew French.

But appointing a judge of the Audiencia Nacional to this post had a collateral benefit. While the incumbent is in office, as a liaison judge, the CGPJ could appoint a replacement at its discretion. This mechanism has been used by the right wing for years on a regular basis. This is not turkey spit [no small thing]: it serves to decide which judge you prefer in the most sensitive courts in Spain, those of the Audiencia Nacional.

In the Audiencia Nacional there are six Central Courts of Instruction. Only six, through which the investigation of major corruption cases passes. There was a time, with Rajoy’s government, when half of the judges of these courts (three out of six) were appointed as liaison judges in different countries. In the meantime, the CGPJ could appoint the judges they liked the most to replace them. With the added bonus that, if they misbehaved, they could change them. As they did, for example, with Judge Pablo Ruz.

But let us return to García Castellón. In 2004 Zapatero came to the Government, but the different ministers of Justice decided not to dismiss him. “He was never of much use. The coordination with France was done through the French liaison judges who were stationed in Spain, because he spent more time in Madrid than in Paris and at the beginning he didn’t even speak French well,” says a source in Zapatero’s government. “We didn’t want to remove him because it would have meant that he would have returned angry against us to his court in the Audiencia Nacional, and that’s why we kept him in Paris,” says the same source.

After 12 years in France, in March 2012, the government of Mariano Rajoy decided to award the coveted post in Paris to another judge of his own: Juan Pablo González González -who had previously been a member of the CGPJ at the proposal of the PP, during the Aznar years-. But the PP did not let García Castellón go. 

He was removed from Paris, yes, but he was appointed liaison judge in Italy, and he could not speak Italian either. He was the ideal candidate!

In Rome he stayed five more years, until May 2017. Just six months after that conversation between Ignacio González and Eduardo Zaplana about how to take a substitute judge “up the ass”, Manuel García Castellón decided to return. It was a difficult step to understand. At the age of 64, after 17 years away from a courtroom, García Castellón decided to apply for a demotion: to resign from the post in Italy in order to charge less and work more. He returned to one of the courts that most worried the PP. That of the Lezo Case, the Punic Case, the one that judged the illegal financing of the PP of Madrid.

At that time, García Castellón had 35 years of judicial career. And practically half of that time, 17 years, he had spent in Paris and in Rome, in positions of great renown to which he had arrived by the direct choice of PP governments. That a judge who owes so much to the PP is today the one who decides whether to investigate Rajoy or Cospedal is another of those anomalies that explain why Justice has the image it has in this country. Although the links of this judge with the right wing do not end only in the PP. 

Manuel García Castellón is also close to Julio Ariza: the owner of the ultra network Intereconomía. Ariza was an autonomic deputy of the PP, although he is now very distanced from this formation. From his small media group, he has been one of the great promoters of Vox. In the last elections, in a symbolic way, he presented himself as the last of the list of this ultra party for Barcelona.

A year ago, García Castellón attended the wedding of one of Julio Ariza’s sons. He has also been seen with him in restaurants in Madrid.

The fixation with Podemos

From his court in the National Court, García Castellón has also starred in an unpresentable persecution of Podemos politicians. He tried to turn the dissemination of the contents of the telephone of a party advisor, Dina Bousselham, into a case against Pablo Iglesias, against Podemos, and against the victim of that operation herself. 

On several occasions, García Castellón has received severe rapapolvos [slaps on the wrist/scoldings]  from the Criminal Chamber of the National Court, which ordered him to shelve a secret investigation he opened against Podemos, calling it “prospective”. Or from the Supreme Court, which also overturned another attempt to charge Pablo Iglesias. Or from the Prosecutor’s Office, which has also criticized this judge very harshly. 

García Castellón began to investigate the accounts and bank movements of the founders of Podemos without even charging them: without them being able to defend themselves. This, in the opinion of Miguel Ángel Carballo, a lieutenant prosecutor of the Audiencia Nacional, was an intrusion “in the most sensitive core of privacy”.

Those who know the judge assure that this fixation with Podemos has its origin in the interrogation he made to Pablo Iglesias on March 27, 2019, shortly before the first elections of that year. That day, after listening to the leader of Podemos, García Castellón told Iglesias: “I am glad that you have explained it this way, so well, because I have understood it. Indeed, in the proceedings that are being followed here, and that you will know from the press, regarding Mr. Villarejo, there are very serious indications from the Ministry of the Interior,” said the judge to Iglesias. Words that he regrets today.

That interrogation, and the umpteenth evidence of how Rajoy’s government had used with impunity the power of the State against Podemos, marked that electoral campaign. And the next one. And then came the coalition government. “García Castellón feels partly responsible for that electoral result and also feels that Iglesias deceived him,” says a person close to the judge.

The latest attempt against Podemos by García Castellón targets Juan Carlos Monedero, whom he holds responsible for irregularly financing the party with the questionable testimony of a high-ranking Venezuelan government official who wanted to avoid at all costs being extradited to the United States, where a trial for drug trafficking awaited him.

In the last two years, García Castellón has made Podemos one of the main priorities of a court where cases as relevant as Villarejo’s business dealings with the Ibex, or Operation Kitchen, are being investigated. The result so far? Nine suspects, only one accused: Monedero. And all the other legal proceedings against Podemos archived. 

And if these titanic efforts had been destined to other objectives, would we finally know who this mysterious M. Rajoy is?

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