Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Immoral Double Life of the Former King of Spain. (NY Times)

Spanish King Juan Carlos I was the honored guest of the City of St. Augustine in 2002.  Insulting ACLU protesters demanding restoration of free speech rights to artists, musicians and a small local newspaper (St. Aug Dog) on St. George Street,  St. Augustine's City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRIS welcomed Spain's King Juan Carlos I to St. Augustine in 2002. 

 It turns out that after resisting dictatorship, King Juan Carlos became a libidinous lout lobbyist for Arab dictatorships. That's why he left Spain.  The sums described in this article makes Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands look like a piker, in the Lockheed bribery scandal.

Attention: J.D. Pleasant, Tom Cushman, Warren Celli & Roger Jolley: 

 From The New York Times:

The Immoral Double Life of the Former King of Spain --- An outdated culture allowed King Juan Carlos I to become a lobbyist for Arab dictatorships and to hide his fortune for decades. 

By David Jiménez 
August 13, 2020
The New York Times

Mr. Jiménez is a Spanish journalist and nonfiction writer. Aug. 13, 2020 King Juan Carlos of Spain, right, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2008. 

King Juan Carlos of Spain, right, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2008.
Credit...Pierre-Philippe Marcou/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MADRID — One of my first assignments as a reporter, in 1996, was to interview an alleged lover of the king of Spain, Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón. My editors at El Mundo asked me to look into whether Bárbara Rey, a Spanish film and television actress, demanded money from the state in exchange for keeping her relationship with the married king secret. In the end, I didn’t get the interview. Under pressure, Ms. Rey chose to remain silent. Thus our king’s two great weaknesses — women and money — remained the country’s worst-kept secret for another two decades. 

 It’s time we Spaniards acknowledge that we always knew the king had no clothes, but we chose to look the other way. 

An outdated culture of allegiance, the opacity surrounding the Spanish monarchy and a Constitution that exempts our kings from any criminal responsibility sent the monarch the message that he was above the law. His immunity from prosecution, designed to give stability to the institution of the crown, was used to amass a fortune primarily through millions of dollars in presumed kickbacks from Arab dictators. He acquired such wealth that in 2012, in the middle of the Great Recession that left  25 percent of Spaniards unemployed, he transferred  65 million euros to his lover Corinna Larsen, a German businesswoman. 

The revelation of this royal “gift,” which Ms. Larsen attributed to gratitude and love — and investigators consider an attempt to hide illicit deals and large sums of money — is just the tip of the iceberg of a scandal that has forced the monarch into exile. Juan Carlos I left the country on Aug. 4 and his  his whereabouts is (sic) unknown to us Spaniards. This strategy of keeping him out of the spotlight, after a secret negotiation between the Royal Household and the government, shows that we have learned nothing.  

The former king,  who abdicated in favor of his son, Felipe, in 2014, should be in the country he ruled for almost four decades while he is under investigation in Switzerland and Spain, including for receiving 100 million euros from Saudi Arabia in 2008. The royal bounty under suspicion, accumulated over decades, includes Ferrari cars, a yacht, luxury trips, land in Morocco and a London flat valued at more than 62 million euros, a  gift from the sultan of Oman. It would be naïve to think that such generosity didn’t come at a price. 

The Spanish Supreme Court is investigating whether the donation of 100 million dollars from the Saudis was a commission paid to  Juan Carlos I for getting Spanish companies to build the high-speed train between Medina and Mecca at a value of 6.7 billion euros. We now know that for years the head of state led a double life as a lobbyist and that in return, his beneficiaries obtained decisive influence in Spain. How much influence? The authorities have only minimal interest in looking under that rock. 

 Parliament has blocked the creation of a commission  that could have revealed the geopolitical implications of the former king’s behavior. The citizens thus miss the opportunity to ask the past four prime ministers of Spain what they knew about the king’s business dealings and their influence on Spanish foreign policy while his immunity from prosecution, which ended when he abdicated, protected him. Back in 1995, a well-known businessman, Javier de la Rosa, told the executive director of El Mundo at the time, Pedro J. Ramírez, that Kuwait paid $100 million as a reward for persuading the Spanish government to join to the coalition against Saddam Hussein during the first gulf war. 

For decades, Spain has been a main supporter of Arab dictatorships that, thanks to our monarchy, have found a way to achieve international legitimacy. In November 2018, amid outrage over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia showcased that Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who some accused of ordering the killing, still had friends: A photograph of a friendly greeting between Juan Carlos I and the crown prince appeared in Saudi news media. 

Nor did the repression of protesters calling for democracy in Bahrain prevent the king from frequently traveling to that country, another of the “sister monarchies” that padded his bank accounts. One of Juan Carlos’s wealth managers told the Swiss attorney general’s office that the former king returned from a trip to Manama, Bahrain’s capital, with a briefcase containing nearly $1.9 million. 

A demonstration last month in Madrid against the monarchy for alleged corruption. A demonstration last month in Madrid against the monarchy for alleged corruption.Credit...Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto, via Getty Images Even as we await the decisions made by the judges in Switzerland and Spain, there is no doubt about the immorality of the behavior of the king, who for decades was the most admired man in Spain for his role in helping to lead the country from dictatorship to democracy. But the accumulation of evidence and the progression of the investigations hardly matter: The same political class, business community and courtly press that draped a mantle of impunity over the king has come to his rescue. What should be a question of  a question of decency and accountability is instead a polarized debate for and against the monarchy. 

The emeritus king’s defenders proclaim that despite his faults,  his legacy as the father of Spanish democracy is indelible. They consider it paramount to protect the institution at a time of great political fracture and territorial tensions, including Catalonia’s government bid for independence. The argument is legitimate, but loses its meaning when cloaked in conspiracy theories about a coordinated attack by the country’s enemies to overthrow the monarchy. No one has done more to sabotage the monarchy than the former king himself. 

European monarchies are relics of the past whose role has been reduced to tasks of diplomatic representation, patriotic symbolism and, let’s face it, entertainment for the masses. The dissolute lives of the monarchs themselves (and their families) have traditionally been accepted, within certain limits. But when scandals involve a network of child abuse, such as the recently revealed connection of Prince Andrew of England to Jeffrey Epstein, or suspicions of corruption, as with Juan Carlos I, that tacit pact is broken and the question resurfaces: Do we need the monarchy? 

An institution like the Spanish one cannot be saved by seeking a placid retirement for the former king. Shielding him from the consequences of his actions and maintaining the usual opacity sends the message to the current monarch, Felipe VI, that he would receive the same treatment regardless of his actions. 

What we need is an open debate on the model of our state and deep reforms that adapt the monarchy to the times, starting with putting an end to judicial impunity and establishing a culture of transparency. The idea that in the 21st century, kings can appear unclothed, as in Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale, and expect their subjects to simply look the other way can result only in an unhappy ending. David Jiménez (@DavidJimenezTW) is a writer and journalist. His most recent book is “El director.” This article was translated by Erin Goodman from the Spanish.

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