SPANISH ROYALS

Spain’s King Felipe VI renounces father’s inheritance over alleged Swiss bank accounts

Emeritus king Juan Carlos I has also been stripped of annual stipend in bid to distance the reigning monarch from supposed financial irregularities

Emeritus monarchs Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía at a funeral in February.
Emeritus monarchs Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía at a funeral in February.GTRES

King Felipe VI of Spain on Sunday renounced any future inheritance from his father, the emeritus king Juan Carlos I, in connection with alleged financial irregularities involving Swiss bank accounts and multi-million-euro donations from Saudi Arabia.

The reigning monarch also stripped his father of his annual stipend of €194,232, the royal household said in a lengthy statement released on Sunday.

The decision comes following news reports that Felipe VI appears as a beneficiary of two foundations, Zagatka and Lucum, the latter of which is under investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors for allegedly taking a $100 million (€88 million) payment from Saudi Arabia in 2007.

The closest precedent to Felipe VI’s decision to cancel his father’s stipend is the time when he stripped his sister Cristina de Borbón of her title of Duchess of Palma

According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, Felipe VI is named as the second beneficiary of a Panama-based foundation named Lucum that has an account open with the Swiss lender Mirabaud. This account, and the $100 million (€88 million) that was deposited in it, are also being investigated by the Swiss prosecutor Yves Bertossa on suspicion of kickback payments for the contract to build the AVE high-speed rail link to Mecca, as EL PAÍS revealed.

In 2012, around $65 million (€57 million) were transferred from this account to Corinna Larsen, a Monaco-based businesswoman described as an old friend of Juan Carlos. Larsen has told investigators that the money was a donation from the former monarch, whom Swiss prosecutors name as the first beneficiary of the Mirabaud account. In Spain, High Court Judge Manuel García Castellón and anti-corruption prosecutors are investigating these alleged payments.

The royal household’s statement noted that at Felipe VI’s proclamation address to Congress in 2014, the new monarch underscored that “the Crown must [...] preserve its prestige and show integrity, honesty and transparency.” In light of these principles, the statement continued, Felipe VI wanted it to be “publicly known” that he has given up on any personal inheritance from Juan Carlos I “and on any asset, investment or financial structure whose origin, characteristics or goal might not be in line with legality or with the criteria of rectitude and integrity that guide his institutional and private life.”

The closest precedent to Felipe VI’s decision to cancel his father’s stipend is the time when he stripped his sister Cristina de Borbón of her title of Duchess of Palma in June 2015, in connection with a criminal investigation into wrongdoing by her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, who was ultimately convicted in a high-profile case named Noos.

Zagatka and Lucum

The royal household said that Felipe VI had absolutely no knowledge of his alleged designation as a beneficiary of the Zagatka Foundation. This entity is owned by Álvaro de Orleans, a cousin of Juan Carlos I, and it paid for many of the former king’s trips on private aircraft. EL PAÍS revealed that Juan Carlos I is also named as the third beneficiary of this foundation. Zagatka was created in Liechtenstein on October 1, 2003 and it opened an account in the Swiss bank Crédit Suisse; the money in this account paid for dozens of Juan Carlos’ private trips for 11 years.

The royal statement did admit knowledge about a news story published a year ago by The Telegraph that named Felipe VI as the second beneficiary of another foundation named Lucum, and went on to explain the steps taken since then to make it clear that the monarch had no ties to the foundation.

According to the royal statement, on March 5, 2019 the British law firm Kobre & Kim sent a letter to the Spanish royals stating, “without any documentary evidence,” that Felipe VI was “allegedly a beneficiary of the Lucum Foundation” and would receive these assets upon his father’s death.

The statement explained that Felipe VI had sent a copy of this letter to his father “and the relevant authorities.” On March 21, the British law firm was told that the Spanish royal household had no knowledge, participation or responsibility in this alleged designation as an heir.

About a month later, on April 12, Felipe VI made a notarized statement “to manifest that he has written to his father Juan Carlos, to say that if this designation were to be true, or that of his daughter the Princess of Asturias, it should be made void.”

The royal household went on to say that Juan Carlos wants it known that “at no time did he give his son information” about the existence of these two foundations.

On May 27, 2019 Juan Carlos dropped all official activities and retired from public life. He abdicated the throne in 2014, in the wake of waning popularity fueled in part by the Noos scandal and by a hunting trip during which his relationship with Corinna Larsen emerged.

Juan Carlos, who served on the throne for 39 years and is widely credited with helping stop the February 23, 1981 coup attempt in Spain, has hired a former anti-corruption prosecutor, Javier Sánchez-Junco Mans, to represent him if he ultimately faces a judicial investigation.

English version by Susana Urra.