Last Monday, Spanish Judge Carmen Rodríguez-Medel found evidence that the new leader of Spain’s opposition party, the conservative Partido Popular (People’s Party, “PP”), Pablo Casado, received a master’s degree in regional public law from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in 2009 under questionable circumstances. Earlier last week, a student at the university who had a file traced to Casado admitted that Casado did not attend class or submit the required papers for the degree. Furthermore, a former student, Alida Mas Taberner, admitted the university granted her a degree even though she also did not attend class or submit coursework. At the time, Tarberner was a deputy secretary in Valencia, which was then under PP rule. Casado admitted he did not attend class, as he already had a degree from Universidad Complutense, and many of his requirements were waived. The existence of the required papers he had to submit were also questioned. Casado insisted that the investigation into his academic degree was irrelevant and that he had no power to benefit the university politically in his previous capacity as a regional deputy. He now faces possible suspension or expulsion from PP, if found guilty.
Due to immunity laws for Spanish members of parliament, Rodríguez-Medel passed the case onto the Spanish Supreme Court. Spanish lower courts previously found signs of bribery in the conferral of several degrees from the university. In particular, the degree appeared to be given as a gift, rather than through academic merit. In April, Cristina Cifuentes, a PP regional premier from the Madrid region, resigned after claims she falsified her degree. Irregularities concerning her degree led to a criminal probe of forgery of public documents by university officials.
Several weeks earlier, Casados recently replaced former Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as the leader of PP, which lost its hold over parliament in a no confidence vote held on June 1st. The vote was held after Spain’s Audiencia Nacional (National Court) ruled PP profited from an illegal kickbacks-for-contracts scheme known as the Gürtel case. The court reportedly confirmed the existence of an illegal accounting and financing structure that ran parallel to the party’s official structure, effectively establishing an institutional system of corruption in the public procurement process in Madrid, Valencia, and other parts of Spain. Estimates of the losses to public finances amounted to approximately 120 million Euros.
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