Anger at Spanish court’s u-turn favoring banks over customers in mortgage tax case
Supreme Court comes under fire as some call for the resignation of the head of Spain's highest judicial authority
Spain’s Supreme Court is under fire over a major u-turn in which judges decided that clients and not banks should pay a tax on new mortgages, thus overriding a series of crucial rulings tipping the scales in favor of customers in recent weeks.
Catalan president Quim Torra deemed the decision a "scandal" and called on the president of Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary, Carlos Lesmes, to step down. Judges for Democracy, encompassing left-leaning judges from across Spain, also demanded Lesmes’ resignation.
Spanish banks rose in the stock markets on Wednesday, with Banco Santander growing by 3.7%, BBVA by 3%, CaixaBank by 5.3%, and Banc Sabadell by 5.7%.
The 28 judges of the Supreme Court debated the issue for two days. And they decided against favoring clients by a slim majority: 15 voted for customers to pay, while 13 said banks should be the ones to shoulder the duty.
"This is one of the biggest humiliations I could imagine in our democracy"
Pablo Iglesias · Podemos leader
Spain’s president Pedro Sánchez will speak at noon to announce political measures in relation to the Supreme Court’s decision. The appearance was announced by the Socialist spokesperson in Congress, Adriana Lastra, who said the decision had left them "astonished."
"This is one of the biggest humiliations I could imagine in our democracy," said Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the left-wing Podemos party and Sáncehz’s main ally. "We’re not equal before the law. It seems as if banks are above the law," he said.
Iglesias called on people to join a demonstration on Saturday in front of the Supreme Court in Madrid, which has also been backed by anti-eviction platforms and grassroots groups critical of the banks.
The Spanish judiciary has been the object of increasingly harsh criticism for recent controversial decisions, such as the preemptive imprisonment of Catalan leaders accused of rebellion, as well as for dismissing gang rape accusations against five men who sexually abused an 18-year old in the San Fermín bull-running festival in Pamplona.
The secretary-general of the People’s Party, Teodoro García Egea, announced on Twitter that they would propose legislative reform as "Spaniards need certainty and it must be clear that the consumer shouldn’t be the one paying the taxes."
Albert Rivera, the leader of Ciutadans, said the decision was "incomprehensible," and accused the Supreme Court of "making a scene" and causing uncertainty for "millions of families." "The judiciary must find solutions to guarantee the rights of citizens and to avoid anything like this happening again," he said.