Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Juan Carlos in Deep Water

King Juan Carlos had a pretty good rep until the elephant-shooting debacle in Botswana a few years ago (here). In his hay-day, he was popularly known as something of a roué and stories of late-night trips away from the Palace on his powerful motorcycle and, more sedately, holidays on his yacht or, ‘with a companion’, in a large estate in Mallorca were common knowledge. He had, after all, supported the introduction (or ‘return’ if you prefer) of democracy in Spain and he scotched the horrific attempted coup d’état in 1981 while, beyond that invaluable moment, he generally kept above politics during his reign (wiki).
Then, in 2014, he abruptly resigned as Regent, passing the crown to his third child and only son, the immensely tall and rather distant Felipe (wiki).
Known today as ‘El Rey Emérito’, Juan Carlos has become a liability. While his apparent philandering has been more or less ignored (outside feminist circles), his remarkable cupidity is now very much in the news.
Or, at least – and perhaps understandably – in some of the news.
Público led on Thursday last week with ‘No trace on the front pages of “the Serious Press” regarding Juan Carlos I’s activities in Switzerland’. The news-group obliges its readers with a link to La Tribune de Genève which breaks the story saying ‘Juan Carlos hid 100 million in Geneva’ (paywall). We must move to Le Soir (Belgium) which says:  ‘the Spanish monarchy trembles: former king Juan Carlos accused of hiding €100 million in Switzerland (elsewhere reported as $100 million). The monarch received the money from Saudi Arabia according to revelations from La Tribune de Genève. The affair is beginning to have political fallout on the Iberian Peninsula’.
The first mention in El País (in English) here that all was not well opens up a second front: Corinna Larsen, the notorious companion of the ex-king. ‘A High Court judge in Spain has requested new information from a public prosecutor in Switzerland over an investigation the latter is carrying out into a donation received by Corinna Larsen, a friend of Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos I. Swiss state attorney Yves Bertossa is probing an alleged money-laundering offense involving Larsen, in relation to the possible payment of illegal commissions connected to a Spanish project to build a high-speed AVE train link in Saudi Arabia...’. Corinna was formerly known in happier times as Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein says Wiki, and the reference site adds ‘...She is a friend of King Juan Carlos I of Spain and was allegedly his mistress. In 2012, she accompanied him on an elephant-hunting safari to Botswana...’. Vanity Fair looked at the other problems of Juan Carlos in an article from 2013 here. ‘...his younger daughter and her husband enmeshed in a corruption scandal; his marriage to Queen Sofía on rocky terrain; his relationship with a glamorous German businesswoman under scrutiny...’.
Now, the stories of corruption, bribes and wrong-doing are arriving thick and fast. In brief: VozPópuli here: ‘The foundation created from the alleged Saudi "gift" to Juan Carlos I was dissolved after transferring the money to Corinna’. The foundation in question was based in Panama (more here).
From El Confidencial here ‘Juan Carlos I now faces inquiries in three countries –Spain, Switzerland and the UK – that threaten his fortune and his legacy’. says ‘Corinna Larsen to denounce Juan Carlos de Borbón in the United Kingdom after receiving threats not to reveal "state secrets"’.
From The Telegraph (covered by Diario 16 here): ‘Former King of Spain Juan Carlos funded private jets from foundation linked to Swiss investigation’. El Español talks of five million euros spent in private flights.  The money allegedly came from a commission, held in a trust in Lichtenstein by a cousin of the king, which was paid through the sale of the Banco Zaragozano to Barclays in 2003.
Worse still, an editorial from El Confidencial here: ‘The Corinna file: how love (for money) devoured King Juan Carlos’.
The Government was highly worried about this situation back in 2014 and no doubt insisted on the abdication; however nobody politically and publicly wishes to tackle this issue, beyond Unidas Podemos which has been calling for a full investigation ( here and Le Monde here) which is going nowhere after a majority cabinet refusal to open this particular can of worms on Tuesday (here).  
Those Bourbons, hey? A critical look at the dynasty here.