03/08/2021

A year after his flight, the former king's scandals have not died down

2 min
Joan Carles I and Corinna, in an archive picture

It is now just over a year since the king emeritus sent a letter to his son, Felipe VI, in which he announced that to avoid further damage to the Crown he was leaving the Royal Palace and going to live abroad. Six years ago, for the same reason, he had been forced to abdicate in favour of his son in a desperate attempt to safeguard the monarchy, which he had mired in a whole series of scandals related to corruption investigations linked to his extramarital affairs coming to light. At the moment the situation is that Juan Carlos I is being hosted in Abu Dhabi, in a villa in Nurai, in the Persian Gulf, by his friend Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, and, although every now and then a rumour spreads that he wants to return, it does not seem that at the moment the conditions have changed much to allow him to do so.

In fact, there are more and more scandals. When he left, there were two judicial investigations underway: one led by Swiss prosecutor Yves Bertossa into a $100m transfer from Saudi Arabia in 2008 to an account held by the Lucum Foundation, of which the king emeritus was the main beneficiary, and one led by the Spanish Supreme Court's Prosecutor's Office into a possible bribe in the awarding of the Mecca-Medina high speed train contract, which could be related to the former and which, in fact, motivated Bertossa's visit to Madrid at the beginning of July. Now, however, and in some way also linked to these other two investigations, a third civil lawsuit was brought by Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, which last week was accepted by an English High Court judge, in which the former mistress of Juan Carlos I requests a restraining order because she accuses him of having her followed to force her to return the $100m he had given her when they were still together.

These would be the three most important investigations, but there have also been others related to money in tax havens or donations or gifts received that had not been declared to the public treasury. In fact, throughout this year, the former king has completed two tax regularisations for about €5m, in which he admitted he had committed a tax crime. For the moment, however, there is no direct accusation to suggest that he could end up, like his son-in-law or his daughter, in the dock. But the possibility exists, and hence his escape a year ago.

The aim was also to put a firewall between his figure and his potential crimes on the one hand and his son and the monarchic institution on the other. There has been a certain consensus among the main Spanish political forces for this to be the case and throughout this year they have acted as if none of this affected the Crown. It is not clear that the same has happened among the population as a whole. It has been years since the Institute of Statistic carried out surveys on the monarchy, but after the former king's scandals and the shadow of corruption that follows him and Felipe VI's political positioning, which has made him lose his neutrality, perhaps it is now urgent to bring back the question in the next survey.

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