Spain: Prosecutors shelve fraud probes haunting former king

Mar 2, 2022, 10:12 AM | Updated: 1:25 pm

MADRID (AP) — Spanish prosecutors are shelving two investigations into alleged financial wrongdoing in Juan Carlos I’s business dealings that prompted the former monarch to move from Spain to Abu Dhabi.

Prosecutors in the Spanish Supreme Court said Wednesday they didn’t find evidence that could be prosecuted, because the monarch was protected by immunity until his abdication eight years ago and because any possible fraud fell out of the statute of limitations.

The probes allowed the recovery of 5.1 million euros ($5.6 million) in fines and taxes for income that Juan Carlos had failed to declare to Spain’s tax authorities, the prosecutors said in their conclusions.

One of the probes involved offshore accounts in Jersey, a tax haven, that prosecutors said couldn’t currently be linked to the 84-year-old Juan Carlos.

The other one centered around a 65-million-euro ($72-million) payment that was suspected to be a commission for the former monarch’s mediation in a high-speed railway contract between the Saudi Arabian cities of Medina and Mecca. Prosecutors said they couldn’t find a link between the “gift” given to Juan Carlos and the project, which was executed by a Spanish consortium.

A Swiss probe on money laundering involving some of the funds was also dropped last year, although Geneva prosecutors fined a Swiss bank for failing to alert authorities on Juan Carlos’ transactions.

In a statement, the former king’s lawyer said that prosecutors had cleared the former king from “any illicit conduct susceptible to criminal reproach.”

Juan Carlos, who retains the title of “King Emerit,” moved to the United Arab Emirates in mid-2020 after the judicial probes on his possible financial wrongdoings emerged.

Spanish media have reported Juan Carlos’ interest in returning home, but the issue is highly divisive in Spain. Some say the former king’s role in steering the country from dictatorship to democracy in the late 1970s and early 1980s trumps his sins, while a growing number have used the probes to demand more accountability for members of the royal family — or even to open a debate on the future of Spain’s monarchy.

Juan Carlos abdicated in favor of his son Felipe VI in 2014 following a series of scandals in the royal family. Since becoming king, Felipe has tried to distance himself from his father, removing the former monarch from the royal house’s payroll as he tries to rebuild the Spanish crown’s image.

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Spain: Prosecutors shelve fraud probes haunting former king