18th April 2024
Former King Juan Carlos I of Spain
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Juan Carlos I flees Spain amid on-going corruption scandal

The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, has communicated to his son Felipe VI his intention to live outside of Spain.

Appointed by Franco as his heir, Juan Carlos was long hailed for contributing to Spain’s transition to democracy following the dictator’s death in 1975.

But the monarch’s popularity collapsed as the last chapter of his 40-year reign descended into a spiral of scandals and alleged corruption, including an elephant-hunting trip to Botswana – as well as later details of multi-million euro ‘gifts’ to his former mistress, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

The Spanish Supreme Court is currently investigating Juan Carlos’s alleged role in a deal in which a Spanish consortium got a €6.7 billion contract with Saudi Arabia to build a high-speed train line.

The prosecutor stated that the purpose of the investigation is to ‘focus precisely on establishing or discarding the criminal relevance of deeds that happened after June 2014′, when Juan Carlos abdicated the throne and was no longer protected by ‘inviolability’.

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The prosecutor’s investigation into the king has derived from another probe led by the country’s anti-corruption prosecutor over the second phase of a high-speed railway linking the cities of Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia – and which was granted to a group of Spanish companies, including the construction firm OHL, in 2011.


In March, it was also reported that public prosecutors in Switzerland were investigating a $100m bank account that was held by Spain’s former king Juan Carlos I in Geneva, according to a report first published by Swiss newspaper Tribune de Genève.

The money allegedly originated 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 reportedly in the name of the Lucum Foundation, a former Panamanian entity whose sole beneficiary was Juan Carlos I.

From this account, a ‘gift’ payment of 65m euros was later made in 2012 to Juan Carlos’s former mistress, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

It was then also reported by the British newspaper The Telegraph that Spain’s current king Felipe VI was the second beneficiary of Lucum and another foundation called Zagatka, also under suspicion.

When this came to light, Felipe 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.

Juan Carlos I and Corinna
Juan Carlos and Corinna in 2006. (Screenshot).

Despite the on-going investigations into the Swiss bank accounts, Spain has so far refused to hold a commission of enquiry in the Spanish Congress.

The relationship between Sayn-Wittgenstein and Juan Carlos I 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 monarch’s reputation and is widely seen as the reason for his 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.

We are currently updating this report. 

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