Yet another controversy has emerged centred on the figure of Spain's Juan Carlos I. One of the emeritus king's businessman friends, Josep Cusí, paid 269,000 dollars of the half-million-dollar secret honeymoon of Spain's current king and queen, Felipe VI and Letizia. This accounts for more than half of the total cost of a trip that took the royal couple to Cambodia, Fiji, Samoa, California and Mexico in 2004.
According to British newspaper The Telegraph, Cusí allegedly acted as the proxy for Juan Carlos I, then Spain's king and head of state. As the newspaper puts it, during the trip his son and daughter in law used the "unimaginative pseudonyms" of Mr and Mrs Smith. The total bill for the lavish trip, which lasted from May until August, amounted to USD 467,000. "Dad's bank" covered it all, half directly and half, says the article, indirectly.
The Telegraph explains that Josep Cusí has had a close friendship with king Juan Carlos since the 1970s. They were "sailing buddies", with Juan Carlos as skipper and Josep Cusí as owner and crew member of the royal yacht Bribón II. The Catalan businessman also directed the construction of several of the monarch's yachts, was his close confidant, has accompanied him on hunts and private trips and was even at his side when Juan Carlos I had medical check-ups and surgical operations at the Planas clinic in Barcelona, opposite the home of the Infanta Cristina and Iñaki Urdangarin in the Pedralbes district.
The British newspaper notes that "in 2015, Mr Cusí and other associates presented Juan Carlos with a classic yacht, brought from Finland and named the Bribón XVI, which allowed the ex-monarch to sail while remaining seated, as his mobility had been affected by a series of hip replacement surgeries after the fall he suffered on an elephant hunting trip to Botswana in 2012."
“Cusí has kept a low profile,” the newspaper says. "One of the few times his name appeared in the press was when he allegedly punched a Spanish journalist to the floor at a yacht club in Italy in 1984 because he had reported that the yacht Bribón IV had been sold for $275,000."
More details of the trip
Felipe and Letizia's honeymoon began in May 2004 in Jordan, following the royal wedding at Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral. The Telegraph reports that from there, the Spanish royal couple flew to the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific, where they stayed for five nights at the exclusive Wakaya Club resort, set amidst rainforest surrounded by coral reefs.
The hotel bill totalled $33,000. This is a luxury establishment which celebrities such as Bill Gates, Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Pfeiffer, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman have also patronised. As they departed the resort, Felipe and Letizia left a handwritten note of gratitude to the staff: "What an awesome and remote paradise! We had a splendid time here, away from busy reality and so well treated by your its always smiling staff ... A very special part of our honeymoon! Our best wishes to all in Wakaya". The note is signed by Felipe de Asturias" and "Letizia, Princesa de Asturias", the titles that they held when Felipe was heir to the throne.
The couple booked nights in luxury hotels for all stages of the trip, including the Raffles Le Royal in Phnom Penh, and the Sheraton Denarau on another island in Fiji.
Do they have to return the money?
The Telegraph affirms that following these revelations, Spain will "begin to wrestle with" the question of whether Felipe and Letizia, now Spanish king and queen, should pay back the money for their 2004 holiday? And if so, to whom?
"King Felipe has made few appearances during the Covid-19 crisis in Spain and his single televised message at the start of the state of emergency in March was met with a large-scale pot-banging protest on balconies around the country," the article says. Felipe and Letizia are to begin a tour of all parts of Spain on Tuesday to mark the end of the state of alarm declared in response to coronavirus.
Pablo Echenique, spokesperson for Podemos, said: “If this information is confirmed, it is a very serious issue and calls into question the version of events that Felipe VI has maintained so far. Gabriel Rufián, of the Catalan Republican Left party, is also quoted by The Telegraph: "We want to go to the root of the matter, and not only investigate Juan Carlos's corrupt Saudi commissions, but all the royal money connected to companies."