Spain investigates former king over deal with Saudis

Updated June 09, 2020

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In this file photo taken on December 6, 2018 Spain's former king Juan Carlos attends commemorative acts marking the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution at the parliament in Madrid. — AFP
In this file photo taken on December 6, 2018 Spain's former king Juan Carlos attends commemorative acts marking the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution at the parliament in Madrid. — AFP

MADRID: Spain’s Supreme Court announced on Monday an investigation into former king Juan Carlos’s alleged role in a scandal over a multi-billion-euro contract with Saudi Arabia.

Magistrates have been investigating this affair since 2018, but the Supreme Court said it was intervening because of the involvement of the 82-year-old former monarch.

A statement from the prosecutors’ office said it was stepping in specifically to investigate the former king’s actions following his 2014 abdication.

Because of the “institutional significance of this investigation”, it will be led by economic crimes specialist Juan Ignacio Campos Campos assisted by three other Supreme Court prosecutors, said the statement.

The case concerns Saudi Arabia’s award of a 6.7-billion-euro contract to a consortium of Spanish firms for a high-speed rail project between Makkah and Madina.

As king of Spain, Juan Carlos had legal immunity until he handed the throne to his son Felipe in June 2014. He stepped down after a series of scandals that tarnished the latter years of his 39-year reign.

But while his links with the Saudis had already come under scrutiny even before he stepped down, prosecutors can only investigate his actions since he abdicated.

The original September 2018 corruption investigation was opened after recordings emerged of the king’s former mistress, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

In them, she said Juan Carlos had taken a commission for the awarding of the Saudi rail contract.

In March, the Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve alleged that in 2008 he had received 100 million dollars from Saudi king Abdallah via an offshore account.

A report later the same month in Britain’s DailyTelegraph said that 52-year-old King Felipe was also a beneficiary of this fund, which it said had been set up when Juan Carlos was still on the throne.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2020