Juan Carlos de Borbón returns to Spain 655 days after announcing his departure. A year and 10 months in which his son, Felipe VI, has done everything possible to detach himself from his most controversial legacy and in which the Prosecutor’s Office has filed the triple investigation that led him to leave the country for the Emirates United Arabs. A time in which, also, the British courts have taught him the way to the dock for allegedly harassing his ex-lover Corinna Larsen. A stage in which, in addition, the Executive and Zarzuela have launched a “roadmap” to improve the transparency of the Royal House and, ultimately, leave behind an inheritance of commissions and bank accounts offshore.
The Royal House announced his departure in a statement issued on August 3, 2020. “Guided by the conviction of providing the best service to the Spanish people, their institutions and you as King, I inform you of my thoughtful decision to move, at this time , outside of Spain”, said the letter. The monarch did not mention in his letter the reason why he had traveled more than 5,000 kilometers to settle in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates: the Supreme Court Prosecutor’s Office had made public that it was taking over the investigations against him for his fortune two months before.
The investigation was not new: Anti-corruption had a magnifying glass on the AVE commissions to Mecca since 2018. And neither was his son Felipe’s estrangement from the Royal House: in March of that same year, just a few months before and in full barrage of information about his fortune, Felipe VI withdrew his assignment and renounced his inheritance.
Juan Carlos I returns to Spain judicially calm, at least within national borders. After several years of investigations, the Prosecutor’s Office decided to file the triple investigation that it opened step by step on his assets. While the monarch was in Abu Dhabi, elDiario.es reported the opening of a second investigation into the use of opaque funds by the monarch and some of his relatives. That was in November 2020, and a few days later the Prosecutor’s Office announced the opening of a third investigation, this time into a trust linked to the monarch and located in the tax haven of Jersey.
The investigation progressed in secret while his lawyer, Javier Sánchez-Junco, was duly informed of each opening of proceedings and while, from thousands of kilometers to the east, the emeritus king tried to avoid the bench at all costs. His defense presented two payments to the Treasury for a value of five million euros distributed between December 2020 and February 2021. The money that had stopped coming in for using opaque funds from the Mexican businessman Sanginés-Krause and for all the flights that his cousin Álvaro de Orleans, through the Zagatka Foundation, had paid him over the years.
All these performances, which the emeritus king followed from a distance, overlapped with the public profile of the Royal House. The coalition government opened the door to a possible law of the Crown to deepen reforms in favor of transparency, but ended up abandoning the project, as well as the idea of modifying the inviolability of the monarchs that has protected Juan Carlos I until the last consequences. In public, the public discourse of the members of the socialist wing of the Executive was clear: Felipe VI had broken with the past and was being an example of transparency.
The emeritus king also followed his son’s speeches from the Emirates. One of the few times in which the monarch alludes to current affairs and some speeches in which, veiled, allusions are made to the corruption issues that have touched the Royal House in recent years. And in that 2020 there was no explicit reference to the exile of his father or to the triple investigation of the Prosecutor’s Office.
“Already in my proclamation I referred to the moral and ethical principles that citizens demand of our conduct. Some principles that bind us all without exception, and that are above any consideration, of whatever nature, including personal or family ones. That is how I have always understood it, consistent with my convictions, with the way I understand my responsibilities as head of state and with the spirit of renewal that my Reign inspires from day one”, he said at the 2020 festivities.
File in Madrid, trial in London
The good news and the bad have been truffing the life of Juan Carlos de Borbón in Abu Dhabi. From the first moment that his defense tried to make peace with the Treasury, from the Prosecutor’s Office the idea slipped that the file of the triple cause was a matter of time. That news came in March 2022, when Anticorruption understood that the inviolability of the Crown, the prescription and the payments to the Treasury made any type of complaint against him impossible.
But by then, the king emeritus had another open front that he will have to face in this new stage in which he will continue to reside in Abu Dhabi but spend time in Spain. The British courts rejected in March that her monarchical inviolability protected her from the civil complaint for harassment by Corinna Larsen, her ex-lover and her protagonist in the management of her millionaire fortune abroad behind the back of the Spanish Treasury .
The decision of the High Court of Justice of the United Kingdom came at the end of March. Judge Matthew Nicklin made it clear in his resolution that Juan Carlos cannot rely on any of the three articles of the 1978 British law that regulates the cases in which immunity can be applied. “Whatever his constitutional position after his abdication, he is not the head of the State of Spain. Since his abdication he is not protected by personal immunity, ”said the letter, for example.
Juan Carlos I, therefore, revisits his country with a trial still pending in the United Kingdom. A civil process in which a prison sentence is not at stake, but an economic sentence is. In her accusation, Corinna Larsen accuses her of having launched a strategy of harassment both for her and her environment in several countries and using Félix Sanz Roldán, at that time director of the National Intelligence Center, as an intermediary. .
The temporary return of the emeritus king to visit Sanxenxo, a Galician town where he has historically spent the summer, coincides with more attempts by his son to move the Royal House away from its recent legacy. It was last April when the institution made public the assets of Felipe VI of a total of two and a half million euros. The royal decree that reforms the operation of the King’s House has also gone ahead and that had a main novelty: the Court of Accounts will audit the Royal House for the first time. The Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, then spoke of an “external audit”.
Juan Carlos de Borbón thus returns to Spain almost two years after his departure, a movement precipitated by the filing of the triple investigation against him, but he does not do so with an immaculate record: he is still awaiting trial for harassment of his ex-lover, with the Casa Real stepping on the accelerator of transparency to leave his legacy behind and, finally, with the file decrees of the Prosecutor’s Office that, yes, make it clear that he amassed part of his fortune in the worst moments of the 2007 economic crisis.