Juan Carlos I and the monarchy's image
BarcelonaJuan Carlos's lawyers, Javier Sánchez-Junco, informed this Wednesday that the ex king had presented a voluntary declaration to the Tax Office for the amount of €678,393.72 to regularise his situation. With this money, the former head of state intends to settle his debt with the Treasury regarding the use of opaque credit cards, which he, his wife and some grandchildren used between 2016 and 2018, when he no longer enjoyed inviolability. This payment is an admission of fraud to the public coffers and an attempt to stop the criminal investigation underway for possible tax offences. With this step, Juan Carlos I is once again tarnishing the image of the Spanish monarchy: this admission is added to the already scandalous fact of having left Spain to settle in the United Arab Emirates. Yesterday was also a bad day for the signatories of the manifesto of support of Juan Carlos.
The payment made to the Treasury does not, however, include the opaque funds abroad that are also being investigated by the Supreme Court and, most importantly, by the Swiss prosecutor Yves Bertossa. This is the main part that remains to be resolved and which will determine the extent of the tax fraud. We must remember that what is being investigated is an alleged commission for the high speed train to Mecca, which the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Finance would have paid to Juan Carlos I through a Swiss bank. The former monarch later transferred this money to his lover, Corinna Larsen, in an attempt to disassociate himself from the funds, which his son, the current king Felipe VI, also benefited from. This money is only part of an alleged foreign fortune that The New York Times estimated in 2014 to be worth 1.8 billion dollars.
Felipe VI already gave up this money and any inheritance from his father in an attempt to break with the actions of Juan Carlos I. It is inevitable, however, that the institution itself will be harmed, for different reasons. In the first place, because the citizens do not understand why Spanish courts cannot investigate the King's financial movements during his reign, a reading of the inviolability granted to him by the Constitution that makes it a de facto passport to impunity. And secondly, because the worst thing that could happen to Spanish democracy is that a third country, in this case Switzerland, ends up bringing out all its dirty linen and prosecuting, even if in absentia, its former head of state.
If, as Development Minister José Luis Ábalos said yesterday, "the law is the same for everyone", it should be so for all intents and purposes. At the moment, this precept is not working and the investigators have found an insurmountable wall in the king's inviolability. That is why it is even more outrageous that, even after abdicating, Juan Carlos I avoided paying taxes in a fraud that he now openly acknowledges and which in Spain has not yet meant the opening of a case for tax offences. The monarchy, which is already a questioned institution, can only function if it is exemplary and if its members observe an exquisite political neutrality. And in the Spanish case neither of these things has happened.