* Sinks to 40th place on Transparency International list
* Posts second-largest drop with Mali, Libya, Gambia,
* Myanmar biggest improver
* Greece improves but remains EU's lowest-ranked state
By Alexandra Hudson
BERLIN, Dec 3 Spain has slumped 10 places to a
rank of 40 in a global index of perceived official corruption
after a spate of scandals in its ruling centre-right ruling
party and the royal family, watchdog Transparency International
In its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013, the anti-graft
organisation said Spain was the second biggest loser of points
alongside Gambia, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Libya. The only
country to tumble further was Syria, rocked by civil war.
Spain's five-year economic slump, which has forced it to
adopt tight austerity laws, exposed how cosy relations between
politicians and construction magnates fed a disastrous housing
The former treasurer of the governing People's Party (PP)
told a judge that he had channelled cash donations from
construction magnates into leaders' pockets, and he was found to
have 48 million euros in Swiss bank accounts. The king's
son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, was also charged this year with
embezzling six million euros in public funds.
"What the economic crisis has done is allow more public
debate about corruption ... It is being exposed more and that
affects perceptions. In Spain every sector - politics, the royal
family and companies - was implicated in graft at a time when
the country is really suffering," said Anne Koch, TI's director
for European and Central Asia.
The scandals also highlighted a lack of accountability in
political parties and even the watchdogs charged with keeping
them clean. This prompted lawmakers to react to public outrage
and draw up Spain's first freedom of information law.
Spain had been the only European Union nation without a law
guaranteeing citizens a right to information on how public funds
are spent. Koch said the new law was still inadequate.
TI ranked 177 countries in 2013, placing New Zealand and
Denmark joint first. The duo were also deemed the world's least
corrupt in 2012, alongside Finland. Somalia, North Korea and
Afghanistan tied at last place, unchanged from last year.
The Berlin-based institute measures perceptions of graft
rather than actual levels due to the secrecy that surrounds most
corrupt dealings. It uses a scale where 100 stands
Greece remained the European Union state with the highest
perceived level of corruption, although its four-point gain to
40 points helped it rise to 80th place from 94th in 2012.
The biggest improver on points was Myanmar, which emerged
from 49 years of military rule in 2011. The Southeast Asian
state gained 6 points, taking it to 157 from a previous 172.
Among the major global economies, the United States ranked
19 and China 80, both unchanged from last year, Russia improved
slightly to joint 127th place, from a previous 133 and Japan
slid one spot to 18.
Allegations that leaders of Spain's PP, including Prime
Minister Mariano Rajoy, took backhanders and the investigation
into a member of the royal family are particularly damaging to
Spain's reputation as they involve such central institutions,
according to Fernando Jimenez, lecturer in political sciences at
"The problem in Spain is the political reaction ... Very few
people resign here," he said.
He contrasted the Madrid government's slow response to the
illegal financing scandal in the PP with Germany, where cabinet
ministers stepped down after much less serious allegations that
they had plagiarised their academic theses decades earlier.