Double-jabbed

Spain's emeritus king might no longer have legal immunity, but his past achievements appear to have inoculated him against public outrage

MARK NAYLER

Spain's tax authorities are going to extraordinary lengths in their investigations into the finances of emeritus king Juan Carlos. Earlier this month, they requested information from employees of the royal household for information on all payments made to the ex-monarch between 2014 and 2018, to check whether they tallied with his former annual state stipend of 198,845 euros. Initially an investigation into funds held in offshore bank accounts, the case against Juan Carlos has turned into an examination of the smallest details of his fiscal activities - but what does the story's newest development signify?

The most recent investigation indicates that the two substantial back payments he's recently made have not entirely regularised his affairs, as he was presumably hoping they would. These were of almost 700,000 euros in December 2020 and over four million euros in February this year, both of which concerned undeclared funds used to pay for private expenses.

Because they're not focused on cash "gifts" from Saudi Arabian royalty, kickbacks for securing contracts for Spanish firms or allegations of espionage, the latest probes aren't receiving as much media attention as their precedents. Nevertheless, they suggest that the Juan Carlos case is becoming more suspicious from the Spanish tax authorities' point of view. Their hunch - well-founded, one hopes - seems to be that funds used by the emeritus king to pay for private expenses between 2014 and 2018 weren't solely from the Spanish state's coffers.

As a result of these ongoing investigations, Spain's once-revered king is now referred to as a "disgraced" monarch, or a monarch who has "fallen from grace". But that appears to be a question of perspective, rather than a fact. Spaniards, certainly, don't seem too concerned about the allegations against Juan Carlos: a recent poll revealed that 57% want him to return to Spain, and that 49.5% think the Spanish royal family hasn't been damaged by the scandal. If Juan Carlos were a politician, similar questions about his alleged fraud would yield much lower and higher percentages, respectively.

In fact, outrage at political corruption has been so widespread in Spain over the last decade that in 2015 it fuelled the emergence onto the national scene of two new political parties, leftist Podemos and centre-right Ciudadanos. Polls consistently reveal political corruption and incompetence to be one of Spaniards' top concerns, along with unemployment and the economy.

But when it comes to similar allegations against Juan Carlos, popular reaction is much more forgiving, even though each month seems to bring with it new accusations and investigations.

Spain's emeritus king might no longer have legal immunity, but his past achievements appear to have inoculated him against public outrage, even as the allegations pile up. He's double-jabbed.