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Spain's king emeritus Juan Carlos I, with corruption scandals blazing around him, has managed to put out one of the judicial fires threatening to engulf him. The criminal proceedings over the former king's funds in Geneva have been shelved. Prosecutor Yves Bertossa has closed his investigation over the sum of 65 million euros - 100 million dollars - paid by Saudi Arabia to Juan Carlos. Subsequently, the proceedings also brought to light other payments received by his ex-lover Corinna Larsen in cash, from Kuwait and Bahrain.

After three years, the judge announced his decision to the parties during a hearing this Monday. Four people close to the former Spanish head of state had been accused of money laundering, because of their management or participation in the funds transfers: the king's asset manager in Geneva, his Swiss lawyer, former lover Larsen and the Mirabaud bank. Thus, all of them have been let off the hook.

Prosecutor "doesn't buy it"

As the Tribune de Genève newspaper puts it, prosecutor Bertossa "has never bought the story told by Juan Carlos" but had no choice but to close the case: "He has concluded that it would be impossible to prove that the 100 million dollar payment offered to the former Spanish monarch came from a crime, a necessary condition for the definition of money laundering." Initially, the judge suspected that the money was part of a "corrupt scheme" linked to the contract for the high-speed train between Mecca and Medina. According to this theory, the king emeritus was rewarded for the discount offered to the Saudis by the Spanish companies in charge of the contract.

Three year of inquiries - that ended in the waste paper bin. The Geneva investigation began in 2018 and found that Juan Carlo had received the multi-million-dollar payment ten years earlier from a Swiss account opened in the name of the Panamanian foundation Lucum. The money came from the Saudi finance ministry. According to his asset manager, it was a "pure gift" from the king of Saudi Arabia to his Spanish "brother" and not in return for any other matter, the defendants said. But it did form part of the Bourbon patriarch's close relationship with the Gulf petromonarchy.

Yves Bertossa believed at that time that the money might have come from "unjust management of public interests" by former Saudi king Abdallah, who died in 2015. But the Geneva prosecutor did not send a request for mutual assistance to Saudi Arabia to try to validate this hypothesis. Perhaps because it seemed inconceivable that the Saudi petromonarchy would accuse one of its former kings of misuse of funds. The possibility of appointing an expert to analyze Saudi laws and find out if Abdallah could be blamed for unjust management was also ruled out.

According to Swiss investigative journalist Sylvain Besson, "for the defendants, who always challenged the prosecution's allegations and hypotheses, the decision to close the case is a relief." Thus, the judicial investigation leads to one single penalty, which does not even refer directly to the king's gift: it is a fine imposed on the Mirabaud bank for failing to report an old transaction concerning Corinna, to Switzerland's MROS, the money laundering communication office.

Statement from Swiss justice

According to the Geneva court itself: "Mirabaud will have to pay a fine of 50,000 francs and the costs of the proceedings, set at 150,000 francs. No further comment will be made." With a press release outlining the facts, the prosecutors of this Swiss canton limited themselves to explaining the outcome of the legal procedures for all those investigated.


Now, British justice remains

Switzerland has limited itself to investigating the role of the proxies and that trail end here. At the same time, the Spanish prosecutor's office is about to close the three investigations that were open against the former king, despite the announcement of a six-month extension. The last hurdle for Juan Carlos is the British court over a lawsuit lodged by Corinna Larsen, in which the major question is whether the judiciary will consider the former king to hold immunity and for that reason be exempt from being tried. The judge who will decide on this is Mathew Nicklin, well known to the UK press because he ruled over Meghan Markle's complaint against a news agency for images taken in a park in Canada. A scandal that especially angered the English press.

Early next year, the Supreme Court in London will announce its ruling on whether or not British justice is competent to try the former Spanish head of state for an alleged crime of harassment of the woman who was his mistress for decades. The German citizen sued the former Spanish monarch for alleged harassment by Juan Carlos himself and the Spanish intelligence service (the CNI) between 2012 to 2020, and which, according to her, included entry onto her property, illegal surveillance and the organization of a defamatory campaign against her figure.


Cover photo: Archive image of Juan Carlos I from 1994 with the Saudi king Abdallah, with whom he had a special relationship for years.