It was police week in The Bulletin. Police for all the wrong reasons. And the Balearic budget for 2016 was announced; it will be the highest ever.
The police story was one that had been bubbling for a couple of years, occasionally threatening to really burst out, and finally it did. On Tuesday, we reported that nine police officers from the local force in Palma had been arrested. The arrests had come at the request of the anti-corruption prosecution service and were made by the National Police's anti-corruption squad. By Wednesday, on the same day that we were saying that the regional government is to create an anti-corruption bureau next year (principally for public finance reasons, though perhaps its brief may need to broaden), flesh was being put onto the bones of the arrests: they were related mainly to extortion involving clubs in different parts of the city, including Playa de Palma.
Five officers were to be kept on remand, Thursday's report said, and the court listed a catalogue of offences that were being investigated. To extortion were added, among others, bribery, requesting sexual favours and sexual assault, conspiracy and membership of a criminal organisation. The town hall in Palma was seeking to assert greater control over its own police force by giving the councillor for public safety certain responsibilities in a "bid to help the crackdown on corruption". But the town hall was facing up to the fact some of its employees were allegedly involved, with cash payments made by a local police intermediary to town hall personnel to, for instance, speed up processes for business activity licences.
The sleazy nature of the affair was revealed on Friday, witness statements describing how the "Gods of Gomila" would go to bars to drink and to "invite" girls, how the elite GAP force would conduct major raids and then treat themselves to drugs that had been discarded by the clientele. And yesterday, we reported one of the investigating judges saying that victims in Gomila and elsewhere were "frankly terrified" as to what might be done to them. Some thirty witnesses, among them women who had worked in the clubs, some owners and even police officers, were being given special protection to prevent intimidation and their identities being known.
The real James Bond?
Of a different nature in terms of security forces, Humphrey Carter's interview last Sunday was with Nicholas Harling, the son of Robert Harling, who had become a close friend of Ian Fleming during World War Two and who formed part of the so-called "Fleming's Secret Navy" of intelligence gathering. Nicholas said that "people do often ask me if Fleming based James Bond on my father", which was "kind of odd, but fun I guess", though he did admit that the Bond character did have traits of his father.
The Balearic budget
The first budget of the regional government of PSOE and Més (with Podemos in the wings) was revealed in draft form: it will go to parliament for potential amendment. Friday's report described it as the "highest ever", going up by 5% to over 4,200 million euros. Tax rises had been heralded well in advance, so didn't come as any great surprise. Income tax on higher earners - 70,000 euros or more - will increase, and there are some additions in areas such as property transfer tax, but there were no real shocks, such as to wealth tax, which was left more or less as it is. There was of course the tourist tax, provision for which is set at 50 million euros revenue, though it still remains the case that no one knows for sure when the tax might actually start: the 50 million might be difficult to achieve therefore.
All at sea
And while Palma was playing a support role to a NATO show of naval force in the Mediterranean, one ship was bidding its farewell. The Island Escape, which has been coming to Palma for years - it holds the record - is to be retired by Thomson Cruises, and a replacement will appear next year, assuming that is that the tourist tax doesn't deter cruise operators. On Friday, we reported that the CLIA España (Cruise Lines International Association) was warning that there were plenty of other ports that ships could go to as alternatives to those of the Balearics.