The Swiss daily Tribune de Genève published a real bombshell on Wednesday: the country's public prosecutors are investigating a 100 million dollar bank account belonging to Spanish king emeritus Juan Carlos I in Geneva. The money allegedly came from the royal house of Saudi Arabia and was deposited with the Mirabaud bank in the name of a foundation of which the former Spanish monarch is the sole beneficiary. So just to give an idea: Tribune de Genève, founded in 1879 by the American banker James T. Bates is the newspaper of record in francophone Switzerland and sells about 50,000 copies a day. About 3,400 people work for the paper's parent company, Tamedia, Switzerland's largest media conglomerate, which has branches in Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria and Germany. So this is not just anyone reporting a story. The coverage, which occupies virtually the entire front page as well as pages 2 and 3, suggests that there will be more developments in the coming days.
What are the Swiss public attorneys looking for? Prosecutor Yves Bertossa, who is in charge of the investigation, wants to know if the US$100 million deposited in the Mirabaud bank account in 2008 is actually the commission for the Spanish contract to build the high-speed train to Mecca. From this total, Spain's former head of state is alleged to have made regular withdrawals until in 2012, around US$65 million were given to his friend Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who moved the money to the Bahamas. After two years of investigation and the publication of several audio recordings relating to Corinna, the prosecutors believed they have closed the circle and suspect it is a case of money laundering. The Tribune de Genève report takes us to this point. The recordings, which already caused an uproar when they emerged, featured not only Corinna but also businessman Juan Villalonga and former police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo.
It is notable when a news story of this magnitude either fails to appear at all or is hidden away in the establishment media which until a few years ago were the only ones who controlled the distribution of information in Spain. It does not seem likely, therefore, that it will be given space on the front pages of this Thursday's press when it arrives punctually at the newsstands. A few years ago, this revelation could have been more or less dodged. Now this will no longer be the case, for all that the mainstream media may try to muffle an extremely serious revelation.
It seems that the attempt to create a firebreak, signified by the abdication of Juan Carlos I as Spanish king and head of state in June 2014, has for quite some time been completely overwhelmed on two fronts that now directly affect the Spanish royal family and Juan Carlos's son, the current monarch Felipe VI: firstly, the continuous trickle of news that has as its common theme the huge sums of the king emeritus's money being moved to and fro from a fortune that The New York Times estimated in 2012 at 1.8 billion euros and the role played in this by his friend Corinna; and secondly, the Catalan conflict, focused on the independence referendum of 1st October 2017 and the current king's disastrous speech two days later which created a huge barrier between the Spanish monarchy and Catalan society.