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The saga of corruption in which the king emeritus Juan Carlos I and the Spanish royal family have been starring ever since the former king abdicated began a new episode on Tuesday when it emerged that the specialist anti-corruption office of Spain's prosecution service was investigating the former king, queen Sofia and an indeterminate number of relatives — including some of their grandchildren — for the indiscriminate use of financially-opaque credit cards linked to offshore accounts, not in the name of any member of the family. The spending on these credit cards took place after the monarch renounced his position as head of state in 2014 and, as a result, Juan Carlos is not protected by the inviolability he enjoyed while king. On the other hand, he is, according to Spanish justice, protected in the case of the transfer of more than 65 million euros involving Corinna Larsen, also known as princess Corinna, and with whom the former head of state had an intimate relationship. As is well known, the Swiss judiciary is also pursuing an investigation against the king emeritus and it would seem difficult for him to avoid having to testify if he were called, something which Òmnium Cultural requested in August.

The matter of the opaque cards, which impacts Juan Carlos I in particular and which the prosecution can move forward with confidently because they have been used over the last three years, comes to light at a time when three months have passed since he fled to the United Arab Emirates. A luxurious hotel room in that country has been his place of exile since August. In recent weeks, the option of coming home has gained momentum, as has been explained by several people who have spoken to him, a move that would generate a huge uproar and would not be to the liking of the current king and queen or the government of Pedro Sánchez, which did so much to provide him with a golden retirement option at a safe distance from Spain, in the way they might have prepared royal holidays in an earlier time. Obviously, the likelihood of his return shrinks considerably now with the publication of the news related on the opaque cards, since Juan Carlos I could end up in an uncomfortable judicial situation in Spain.

But the most worrying thing about all of this, as time goes on, is how clear it makes the level of corruption that was reached, breaching all ethics required of a head of state. Statements such as those of tennis player Rafael Nadal, which caused so much commotion this weekend, are not acceptable, noting that the king emeritus may have made mistakes but that people needed to remember what he had done for Spain. To whitewash the corruption of Juan Carlos I in this way is to choose a thorny path whose liabilities clearly begin to outweigh its assets. The Spanish government has opted for silence, which is nothing new either, as efforts to protect Juan Carlos I ​in recent times have become much more than anecdotal while the cracks in the monarchy's protective dyke begin to let in more and more water. So much so, that in many articles and editorials in the foreign press, its role is increasingly questioned.

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