Spain’s courts shelve all probes into ex-king’s finances

Spanish prosecutors have dropped all investigations into the finances of former king Juan Carlos which prompted him to flee the country into exile in 2020, court documents showed Wednesday.

Spain's courts shelve all probes into ex-king's finances
Spain's King Felipe VI and his father Juan Carlos I salute during Epiphany Day celebrations in 2018. The court's decision means the 84-year-old former monarch could return from exile in the United Arab Emirates.(Photo by Juanjo Martín / POOL / AFP)

“The investigation.. does not, in the Prosecutor’s opinion, allow for any criminal action to be brought against His Majesty Juan Carlos,” said the legal document released by the public prosecutor’s office.

The move could pave the way for the 84-year-old former monarch to return from exile in the United Arab Emirates.

Since December 2018, prosecutors have opened three separate investigations into the former king’s finances but shelved all of them for reasons including “the lack of incriminating evidence, the statute of limitations, the inviolability of the head of state and tax regularisation” payments he made in recent years.

Lawyer Javier Sanchez-Junco, whose firm was representing the former royal, confirmed the decision, saying prosecutors had concluded that “in none of the cases.. did they find any wrongdoing that could be attributed to King Juan Carlos or conduct that could be subject to criminal prosecution”.

Investigators initially began probing his finances over possible illegal commissions linked to a high-speed rail project in Saudi Arabia that was awarded to a Spanish consortium in 2011.

The suspicions centre on $100 million (€87 million) that Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah deposited into a Swiss bank account in 2008, to which Juan Carlos had access.

But the public prosecutor’s office said investigators “had not been able to establish, even indirectly, any link between the aforementioned payment.. and the awarding of a construction contract for a high-speed railway line in Saudi Arabia”.

Swiss prosecutors had also opened a probe into the same issue in 2018 but dropped the case in December for lack of evidence.

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Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

Spanish police have begun wearing body cameras to record their interactions with the public in a move aimed at ensuring greater security that is gaining ground in Europe and the US.

Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

The interior ministry said the bodycam was launched Monday and would be “rolled out on a gradual basis to all police officers”, without saying how many were involved in the initial stages.

Spain’s TVE public television said the tiny cameras were being attached to the officers’ uniforms and could be activated either manually or automatically.

The main Spanish police union JUPOL hailed the move on Twitter, saying it was in response to “a request that the union has been making”.

“It will guarantee security, both for us to avoid any kind of misrepresentation of our interventions, as well as for the public, who will be able to clearly see the police’s professionalism and that there is no abuse of power nor excesses,” union spokesman Pablo Pérez told TVE.

Forces in Europe and the United States are increasingly turning to such technology to boost transparency following a string of fatal shootings and other claims against police over the past decade.

“The cameras are being used under public safety protocols in order to record everything that happens in the event of an unwarranted offence during an operation,” Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska told TVE ahead of the rollout.

“If they are activated, it is to guarantee security and really be transparent so that the officers’ actions can be seen and checked,” the minister said.

“This means security for both the police and the public,” he added, suggesting that in time, they would also be available to Spain’s Guardia Civil rural police force.

France began trialling bodycams, known as “pedestrian cameras”, in 2013
before a gradual rollout in 2015 in a move welcomed by police, but greeted with scepticism by rights groups who said there was no guarantee they would be always activated.

Police in London and New York also began pilot schemes in 2014 with credit-card-sized cameras clipped onto their uniforms with the technology gradually deployed over the following years.

But the cameras have had mixed success. The absence of any legal obligation governing their use can also limit their scope to uncover police misconduct.