surinenglish

THE EURO ZONE

Untouchable

This week saw the first anniversary of former king Juan Carlos's flight from Spain to the United Arab Emirates, following the launch of inquiries into allegedly fraudulent activity during and after his reign. Now, after a year on a paradisiacal island off Abu Dhabi, the former king apparently wants to return to La Zarzuela, the royal palace where he lived for almost six decades - and according to a recent poll, 57% of Spaniards support his homecoming. Perhaps even more surprising is that almost half the population (49.5%) think that the continually worsening scandal hasn't done the Spanish royal family any reputational damage.

Since the story emerged a year ago, it's become much more complex. Last August, Juan Carlos was placed under investigation by Spanish and Swiss authorities, after their suspicion was aroused by funds held in bank accounts registered in Liechtenstein and Panama (two of the world's premier tax havens), and by allegations of kickbacks in connection with a contract awarded to a Spanish consortium to build a high-speed railway in Saudi Arabia. In an attempt to ward off Spain's Tax Agency, Juan Carlos has made two back-payments since fleeing to Abu Dhabi, one of 700,000 euros last December and a second of over four million euros in February. Neither exactly screamed innocence of the charges.

The initial allegations were followed, in January this year, by revelations of alleged espionage conducted by Juan Carlos against his former lover, German-Danish businesswoman Corinna Larsen, in 2012, via the then-head of Spain's secret intelligence service, Felix Roldán. In a trial against ex-police chief and spymaster Jose Villarejo, Larsen testified that Roldán had threatened her and her children, and that his orders were coming directly from Juan Carlos, who was king at the time.

The latest installment in this increasingly-labyrinthine drama came a few days ago, when London's High Court of Justice revealed a case filed against Juan Carlos by Larsen last December. Larsen alleges harassment and illegal surveillance dating back to 2012, the year in which Roldán allegedly threatened her and in which her Monte Carlo apartment was apparently raided by Spanish intelligence services. Larsen has requested a restraining order on her former lover and compensation for damages.

Meanwhile, the Swiss and Spanish investigations into Juan Carlos's finances continue.

And yet the above-mentioned poll reveals an almost unconditional admiration for Spain's emeritus monarch, in contrast to the outrage expressed over scandals involving politicians.

Perhaps this is because Juan Carlos's most loyal fans regard him as above the law (which he was during his reign), or because he's so revered for guiding Spain from dictatorship to democracy in the 1970s that his alleged misdemeanors are judged irrelevant.

Either way, as far as his adoring public is concerned, Juan Carlos can do no wrong.