Following news that Spain’s King Felipe VI will renounce the inheritance that personally corresponds to him from his father Juan Carlos I, after last week’s reports that the former king held bank accounts in tax havens, there will still not be a parliamentary investigation into the former monarch’s financial affairs.
The left-wing Podemos group, as well as the Catalan Esquerra Republicana (ERC) and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) pro-independence parties, have all demanded an investigative commission to cover the ‘alleged corrupt activities of the king Juan Carlos’. Podemos is currently the minority partner of the Socialist Party (PSOE) in a coalition government. Podemos, led by Pablo Iglesias, is calling for the probe as a group rather than from the coalition itself.
The PSOE-led Spanish government, however, has said that such a commission would be unconstitutional. Attorneys from the Spanish Congress have previously rejected an investigation into the economic activities of Juan Carlos on the basis that he enjoyed complete immunity while he was head of state, and had ‘inviolability privileges’.
It therefore seems highly unlikely that Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 so that his son Felipe VI could take the throne, will ever be investigated by the Spanish parliament itself.
On Sunday Felipe VI renounced any future inheritance from his father, the emeritus king, because of the reports of his connection with alleged financial irregularities involving Swiss bank accounts and multi-million donations from Saudi Arabia.
Felipe VI also stripped his father of his annual income of some €194,232, Spain’s royal household announced in a statement released on Sunday evening.
The royal household’s statement said that ‘the Crown must … preserve its prestige and show integrity, honesty and transparency’, and that Felipe VI has therefore given up on any personal inheritance from Juan Carlos I ‘and 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.’
On Monday the Spanish government applauded Felipe VI’s decision to relinquish any future inheritance from his father, yet remained adamant that there would be no parliamentary investigation into the former monarch’s financial affairs.
Felipe VI’s action was taken after British newspaper The Telegraph revealed that he 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 $100m payment from Saudi Arabia in 2007.
The money allegedly originates from a ‘donation’ made in 2007 by the Finance Ministry of Saudi Arabia, at the time that Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was the Saudi king. He died in 2015. The account, in the Swiss Mirabaud Bank, was in the name of the Lucum Foundation, a former Panamanian entity whose sole beneficiary was Juan Carlos I. According to The Telegraph, Felipe VI is named as the second beneficiary of the Lucum Foundation.
Public prosecutors in Switzerland are currently investigating the $100m bank account, according to a report first published by Swiss newspaper Tribune de Genève. It is 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.
From this account, a ‘gift’ payment of 65m euros was later made in 2012 to Juan Carlos’s former mistress, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.
Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Monaco-based businesswoman who continues to use her German ex-husband’s aristocratic title, has since claimed that the funds were a donation made by Juan Carlos to her, as well as to her son.
A High Court judge in Spain, however, has requested new information from the Swiss prosecutor Yves Bertossa, in order to investigate whether the payments made to Sayn-Wittgenstein involve any illegal commissions connected to the Spanish project to build the Mecca train link.
The relationship between Sayn-Wittgenstein and Spain’s king emeritus came to light as a result of a 2012 accident that Juan Carlos suffered in Botswana, when they were both on a hunting safari. The incident damaged the Spanish monarchy’s reputation and is widely seen as the reason for Juan Carlos’s decision to abdicate in 2014 at the age of 76 in favour of his son Felipe VI. He then retired from public life in June 2019.
Meanwhile, lawyers in the UK representing Sayn-Wittgenstein are preparing to launch a suit against Juan Carlos, accusing him of making threats against her.
Newspaper reports in the UK claim that the German-born aristocrat’s suit accuses the former head of Spanish intelligence, Félix Sanz Roldán, of organising an intimidation campaign against her from 2012, when he learned of her relationship with the former king.
According to the reports, she and her son say they were subject to death threats from the intelligence service, who demanded that she keep quiet about Spanish state secrets supposedly in her possession.