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CORRUPTION

Trust in Spain’s scandal-hit royals ‘hits new low’

Public confidence in Spain's royal family has plunged to a new low in the past year and a half since a corruption scandal engulfed King Juan Carlos' son-in-law, a survey showed on Friday.

Trust in Spain's scandal-hit royals 'hits new low'
King Juan Carlos of Spain with his eldest daughter Cristina in 2010. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

The study by the state polling institute CIS showed that the score for public confidence in the royals fell to 3.68 points out of ten, from 4.97 in October 2011. In November 2010 it had been 5.36.

The question on the royals had not been included in the monthly CIS survey since October 2011, just before Juan Carlos's son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin was named in a corruption probe – the first major public scandal to hit the traditionally popular king's family.

The latest poll was carried out between April 1st and 8th, coinciding with the news that Urdangarin's wife, the king's younger daughter Cristina, was also formally named as a suspect in the affair. She has appealed the summons to go before a judge in the investigation.

The case centres on allegations of embezzlement against Urdangarin and his former business partner when the duke ran a non-profit institution from 2004 to 2006.

Another poll carried out before Cristina's summons and published in El Pais newspaper on April 7th showed that more than half of Spaniards disapproved of the king against 42 percent who approved.

Juan Carlos won wide respect in Spain for helping guide it through a political transition after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

But his image suffered last year due to the corruption scandal and an expensive elephant-hunting holiday which he took in Botswana while Spain was struggling through a recession.

Backing for Juan Carlos has declined most sharply among the generation of young Spaniards born after the restoration of the monarchy, the survey in El Pais by pollster Metroscopia showed.

The scandals raised speculation that Juan Carlos would abdicate to make way for his son Felipe, but the king has indicated in recent months that he wishes to continue ruling.

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ROYAL FAMILY

‘Alone and bored’: A year after exile, legal woes haunt Spain’s ex-king

A year after Spain's former King Juan Carlos went into self-imposed exile in the face of mounting questions over his finances, he remains under a cloud of suspicion that complicates his return home.

'Alone and bored': A year after exile, legal woes haunt Spain's ex-king
Juan Carlos I's close ties with Gulf leaders have allowed him to live in opulent exile in Abu Dhabi for a year. Photo: KARIM SAHIB / AFP

He announced on August 3, 2020 he was moving abroad to prevent his personal affairs from undermining his son King Felipe VI’s reign and sullying the monarchy.

But his choice of new home — the United Arab Emirates, where some of his business affairs triggered the scandals that tainted his reputation in the first place — only raised Spaniards’ eyebrows further.

Juan Carlos has told his son that he would like to return to Spain “but he won’t come back without the approval” of the royal household, said Jose Apezarena, the author of several books on Felipe.

And the position of the royals is that “until his legal problems end, he should not return”, Apezarena told AFP.

The 83-year-old former king is the target of three separate investigations over his financial dealings, including those linked to a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia that was awarded to a Spanish consortium.

Prosecutors in Spain and Switzerland are looking into suspicions he received kickbacks for facilitating the deal.

The suspicions centre on $100 million (€85 million) that Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah allegedly deposited in 2008 into a Swiss bank account to which Juan Carlos had access.

The other two investigations concern the alleged existence of a trust fund in Jersey linked to Juan Carlos and the undeclared use of credit cards linked to accounts not registered in his name, a possible money-laundering offence.

‘Very bored’

Spanish monarchs have immunity during their reign but Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 following a series of health problems and embarrassing revelations about his personal life, leaving himself vulnerable to prosecution.

While he has not been charged with any crime, the probes have tainted his reputation as a leader of Spain’s democratic transition following the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Outside of the Royal Palace in central Madrid, opinions were divided.

“He is being judged without any evidence, he should be able to come home if that’s what he wants,” said Pura Fernandez, 46, a bank worker.

But delivery rider Angel Galan, 27, was less sympathetic.

“He may have done some great things for Spain but if he committed irregularities I am not sad that he is gone,” he said.

While in exile, Juan Carlos has twice settled tax debts with Spanish authorities for a total of more than €5 million.

But he has otherwise kept a low profile at the villa on the island of Nurai off the coast of Abu Dhabi where he now lives.

“He is alone and very bored,” said Apezarena.

Photo: KARIM SAHIB / AFP

‘Not normal’

When reports emerged in February that Juan Carlos was in poor heath, the former monarch told online Spanish daily OKDiario he was “well, exercising two hours daily” in his only comments to the media since moving abroad.

Abel Hernández, a journalist and expert on the monarchy, said he believes Juan Carlos will return to Spain by the end of the year.

“He has not been charged with anything and has regularised his situation with the tax office. It does not seem normal that he remains outside of the country,” Hernández told AFP.

The scandals swirling around Juan Carlos have provided ammunition for those wanting to abolish the monarchy.

The far-left party Podemos, which is the junior partner in Spain’s coalition government, has called for a parliamentary investigation into Juan Carlos’s wealth.

Felipe, meanwhile, has sought to distance himself from his father.

Last year the king renounced his inheritance from Juan Carlos, and stripped the ex-monarch of his palace allowance after new details of his allegedly shady dealings emerged.

Polls show support for the monarchy has inched up since Juan Carlos moved abroad although a survey published Sunday in conservative daily La Razon found 42.9 percent of Spaniards feel Juan Carlos’s legal woes were hurting Felipe’s reign.

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