The former leader, long revered for leading the transition from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy, is the subject of a Supreme Court investigation and has chosen exile.
Suspected of corruption and under investigation by the Supreme Court, the former King of Spain Juan Carlos announced his decision to leave the country in a letter addressed to his son, the sovereign Felipe VI, cited by the Royal House.
“Guided now by the conviction to render the best service to the Spaniards, to their institutions, and to you as King, I inform you of my considered decision to exile myself, at this time, outside of Spain. », Wrote the former sovereign of 82 years quoted in the press release of the Royal House, where King Felipe VI accepts and thanks him for his decision.
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) August 3, 2020
Investigation since 2018
In early June, the Spanish Supreme Court announced the opening of an investigation to establish whether Juan Carlos had criminal responsibility in a case of alleged corruption when Saudi Arabia had entrusted a Spanish consortium with the construction of the TGV to Mecca.
Justice has been investigating these facts since 2018, but by virtue of the immunity it enjoys, only the Supreme Court can seek to determine the responsibility of the former monarch, now aged 82, and only for acts committed after his abdication.
“It is a decision that I take with deep sorrow, but with great serenity”, continues the former sovereign in his letter, affirming to have “always wanted the best for Spain and the crown”.
A year ago, I expressed to you my will and my desire to abandon institutional activities.
“With the same ardor as to serve Spain during my reign, and in the face of the public consequences of certain past events in my private life, I wish to express my absolute availability to you in order to help facilitate the exercise of your functions, with the peace and serenity that your high responsibility demands ”, writes Juan Carlos.
My heritage, and my dignity as a person, dictate it to me.
“In the service of Spain and democracy”
On its site where the official letter was published, the Royal Household specifies that the King underlined the “historical importance” of his father’s reign “in the service of Spain and democracy”, while “reaffirming the principles and values on which these are based, the Constitution and “our legal order”.
Juan Carlos, I abdicated in June 2014 in favour of his son Felipe, when the end of his reign had been tarnished by various scandals, and in particular suspicions about his opaque fortune and his close relations with the Saudi royal family.
The investigation had fallen to the prosecution of the high court since “one of the people involved in the facts targeted by the investigation was then the king, the current sovereign emeritus Juan Carlos de Bourbon”, the Supreme Court had indicated in June.
“This investigation aims precisely to establish or rule out the relevance (of a criminal prosecution) of the facts that occurred after June 2014, the date on which the King Emeritus ceased to be protected by inviolability”, added the prosecution. in a press release.
A 6.7 billion euros contract
The file was opened in September 2018 following the publication of recordings by the former mistress of Juan Carlos, Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who claimed that the sovereign had received a commission for the granting of a contract of 6 , 7 billion euros for the construction of a high-speed train between Mecca and Medina to a consortium of Spanish companies.
“It would be a possible offence of corruption in international business transactions”, then reported the prosecution.
The Swiss daily Tribune de Genève claimed in early March that Juan Carlos had received, in 2008, 100 million dollars from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in an account in Switzerland of a Panamanian foundation. The same month, the daily The Daily Telegraph reported that Felipe VI was also a beneficiary of this foundation.
After the publication of these articles, Felipe VI withdrew from his father an annual endowment from the Royal Palace valued at more than 194,000 euros per year. Then he announced that he was renouncing his father’s legacy “in order to preserve the exemplary nature of the Crown”.