Could we ever see Spain’s king emeritus Juan Carlos I in the dock? This is one of the questions in the air, after the information bomb published this week: the Swiss prosecutor's office investigating Juan Carlos I for an alleged donation to a Swiss account that he would have received in 2012 from the then king of Saudi Arabia. Following the case, the Spanish anti-corruption prosecutor's office has requested information from Switzerland. But if evidence starts to make a case, could Spanish justice be the judge? The answer is yes, but with some limitations: since his abdication, soon six years ago, he is no longer inviolable... but not completely.
The Spanish Constitution states that "the person of the King is inviolable and is not subject to criminal responsibility". In other words, he cannot be tried. This person is now Felipe VI. But what about his father?
A few weeks after abdicating to his son, Juan Carlos I managed to get the Rajoy government to reform the Organic Law of the Judiciary so as not to leave him out in the open, as had happened with Princess Cristina and the Noos case. An amendment was incorporated so that former kings, princes, princesses and their partners could be granted immunity. This means that they cannot be judged by an ordinary court, but only by the Supreme Court.
There is one overriding limitation: all acts committed during his time as head of state, that is, as a monarch, cannot be judged. Only those committed since his abdication in the summer of 2014 could. However, several jurists point out that this corset depends on how the law is interpreted. According to this view, Juan Carlos I would be protected only regarding his activity related to his institutional position, but not in matters related to his private life, as a citizen.
The alleged crime for which the former king is being investigated would have been committed in the year 2012, therefore, still during his reign. However, it would be related to his personal activity, not to his role as a monarch. Moreover, if it were confirmed that the account had been operating over the years, the crime would have persisted after his abdication.
In any case, the privilege that Juan Carlos I does have is the granting of immunity, which establishes that if he were to be brought to justice, he would be put at the disposal of a court that is legally superior to the ordinary one. This is a procedural advantage that is also enjoyed by deputies and senators, members of the government and the leaders of the judiciary. In total, some 10,000 people.