Spanish congressional leaders on Tuesday rejected the creation of an investigative committee to explore alleged irregularities committed by Spain’s emeritus king, Juan Carlos I, who abdicated from the throne in 2014.
The proposal for an inquiry came from the left-wing group Unidas Podemos, a partner in Spain’s governing coalition, and from several regional parties, including the separatist Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Together for Catalonia (JxCat).
The question marks now surrounding Juan Carlos exclusively could also extend to [his son, the reigning monarch] Felipe VIJaume Asens, Unidas Podemos
Unidas Podemos last week said that Congress should investigate “the alleged corrupt activities” of the emeritus king, after Swiss public prosecutors announced an investigation into a $65 million (€57 million) donation made in 2012 to Corinna Larsen, a Monaco-based businesswoman described as an old friend of Juan Carlos, from a Swiss account with ties to a Panama foundation, as this newspaper recently revealed.
Swiss prosecutors are trying to determine whether this donation was made by Juan Carlos and whether it is linked to the alleged payment of illegal commissions for the construction of a high-speed AVE train link in Saudi Arabia by a Spanish consortium.
The investigation shows that the account that the donation originated from held $100 million (€88 million), and that this amount was in turn a donation made in 2007 by Saudi Arabia’s Finance Ministry.
But on Tuesday, the Mesa del Congreso – the speaker’s committee, which oversees the running of the lower house of parliament – rejected the idea of a congressional inquiry. Only the two Unidas Podemos representatives on the committee voted in favor, while those representing the Socialist Party (PSOE), the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the far-right Vox voted against the measure.
The decision was backed by a report from the parliament’s legal department, which concluded that the motion “should not be admitted” based on the institutional position awarded to the head of state by Spain’s Constitution, as well as by existing case law and the precedent in Congress, where a previous attempt at an inquiry was made in 2018.
Jaume Asens, speaking for Unidas Podemos, said after the vote that the rejection was “not legally justified, and extremely serious from the political point of view” because, in his view, the former king no longer enjoys the immunity he had when he was head of state.
Asens warned that his party will keep working to open an investigation, and suggested that if it keeps getting blocked, “the question marks now surrounding Juan Carlos exclusively could also extend to [his son, the reigning monarch] Felipe VI.”
Larsen and Spain
The relationship between Corinna Larsen and Spain’s emeritus king came into the public spotlight as a result of the 2012 accident that Juan Carlos suffered in Botswana, where they were both on a hunting safari. The incident damaged the monarch’s reputation and was partially behind his surprise decision to abdicate in 2014.
The Monaco-based businesswoman, who continues to use her German ex-husband’s aristocratic title, zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, also made headlines in 2018 when a recording emerged in which she claimed she had been used as a front to conceal some of Juan Carlos’ wealth. The recording was one of many made by a former police commissioner named José Manuel Villarejo, who is at the heart of a series of judicial investigations into 20 years’ worth of wiretaps and other invasions of privacy against scores of politicians, business people, judges and journalists in Spain.
English version by Susana Urra.