Spain’s ex-monarch Juan Carlos I leaves country amid tax haven scandal

Spain’s ex monarch Juan Carlos I has told his son, King Felipe VI of his "well-considered decision" to move away from Spain after Swiss and Spanish prosecutors opened an investigation into allegations of financial irregularities, El Pais reported on Monday.

In a letter to his son released by the Royal Household, Juan Carlos writes that due to the “public impact” of the investigation, he has decided to leave Spain in order to enable Felipe VI to act as head of state from a place of “peace and tranquility.”

According to the press release from the Royal Household, Felipe VI has told his father of his “respect and appreciation” for the decision.

Juan Carlos’ lawyer has said that although his client will no longer be in Spain, he will still be available to help the public prosecutor with its investigation in any way possible.

The news of the former king’s decision to leave Spain comes four months after Felipe VI announced on 15 March that he would renounce any future inheritance from his father that was connected with his foreign bank accounts. He also stripped Juan Carlos of his annual stipend of €194,232. Although King Felipe’s decision raised questions – an inheritance cannot be renounced until the benefactor has died – its meaning was clear: the king had broken ties with his father.

Juan Carlos’ problem began in the summer of 2018 when Swiss police officers, sent by the prosecutor Yves Bertossa, searched the offices of Geneva-based fund manager Arturo Fasana. In that search, Bertossa found records of two foundations with Swiss bank accounts: the Zagatka foundation, run by Alvaro de Oleans, a distant cousin of Juan Carlos, which paid for the private flights of the former monarch and his longtime friend Corinna Larsen; and the Panama-based foundation Lucum, which listed Juan Carlos I as the first beneficiary and Felipe VI as the second.

When this news became public in March 2020, King Felipe renounced his father’s inheritance and said that Corinna Larsen had sent a letter to Zarzuela Palace a year ago informing him that he and his two sisters had been named as beneficiaries of the Lucum foundation. The Royal Household decided to report this situation to the Spanish government, and to go to a notary to reject any money from these accounts.

The Swiss investigation revealed that on 8 August, 2008, Arturo Fasana deposited $100m (€64m at the exchange rate of the time) into an account at the private bank Mirabaud. This money came from the finance minister of Saudi Arabia. Four years later, the funds were transferred by Juan Carlos, who was still Spain’s head of state (he did not abdicate until 2014), to a bank account in Nassau, in The Bahamas. The account in the bank Gonet & Cue was held by the company Solare, which is owned by Corinna Larsen. The Swiss prosecutor Bertossa froze the suspicious accounts and opened a secret money laundering investigation into those involved.

Juan Carlos is not yet under investigation, but Swiss prosecutors have not ruled out the possibility that he will be in the future. The information sent by Switzerland to Spanish judicial authorities has called into question the former monarch’s actions after June 2014, when he lost immunity from prosecution as Spain’s head of state. Although Juan Carlos no longer enjoys immunity, he is still aforado, meaning he enjoys protection from prosecution in the lower courts. At the beginning of June, Spain’s prosecutor general, Dolores Delgado, decided that prosecutors from the Supreme Court should investigate the case. This stage of the investigation must determine whether there is sufficient evidence that Juan Carlos committed a crime after his abdication. The probe is focused on two main areas: money laundering (the attempt to hide the illicit origin of money) and fiscal crime (defrauding the Tax Agency of more than €120,000).

According to Spanish daily newspaper ABC, the 82-year-old ex-monarch has left Spain on Sunday and flew to the Dominican Republic via Portugal. But on Tuesday, the online newspaper El Confidencial said he could be in Portugal, where he spent part of his youth, or in France or Italy. Asked by AFP about the reports, a royal palace spokesman refused to give any information about Juan Carlos's whereabouts.



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