The Andorran justice will investigate former Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy and the members of his former administration Cristóbal Montoro, Jorge Fernández Díaz and Francisco Martínez for alleged coercion against the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA). The organization that filed the lawsuit, the Institute of Human Rights of Andorra (IDHA), claims that the former Spanish government threatened to shut down the Andorran bank if it did not provide them with politically-useful information and when the bank refused it, Spain put its threat into action by reporting alleged money-laundering activities to the US Treasury Department, which acted swiftly.
According to the private prosecution, the coercion and threats to the Bank took place during an official visit of Rajoy and Montoro to Andorra in January 2015, when they met with the head of the Andorran government, Toni Martí and other ministers.
The Institute of Human Rights of Andorra (IDHA) claims that the visit was intended to obtain information on Catalan pro-independence politicians. The Andorran justice will investigate all the offenses they are accused of by the private prosecution.
In another case of May and June 2014, it was stated that four Spanish police officers had threatened, coerced and extorted three BPA executives in an attempt to extract information on alleged bank accounts of Catalan pro-independence politicians under the threat that the “bank could end up being blocked from activity,” which is what eventually happened.
On Monday, Spain’s interior minister, Marlaska, confirmed that the Spanish government was still providing protection for former King Juan Carlos I, who fled the country last week over allegations of corruption and money laundering. He is believed to have settled in a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi. The cost per night is over €10,000.
Marlaska: “It is reasonable and timely that the Minister of the Interior does not give any information about it [where the King is], but what no one can forget is that we are talking about the person who was the head of State in Spain. His security obviously concerns the Spanish state.”
PM Pedro Sánchez affirmed that he didn’t know the whereabouts of the monarch, but the minister of the interior’s statements suggests his administration is closely monitoring the former king’s steps.
Last week, the state-owned public broadcaster RTVE revealed that the government had been negotiating the self-imposed exile of the monarch with the Royal House over a period of weeks, meaning it had helped the monarch to flee the country.
Juan Carlos is under investigation in Spain for his role in a deal in which a Spanish consortium landed a €6.7 billion contract to build a high-speed rail line between the Saudi cities of Medina and Mecca.
Swiss prosecutors are also investigating a $100 million bank account held by the monarch in the country. According to the investigations, Juan Carlos allegedly received a “donation” of $100 million from the king of Saudi Arabia that he put in an offshore account in 2008. A few years later, he allegedly “gifted” 65 of those millions from that account to his ex-lover Corinna Larsen.
It is still too early to know whether Swiss and Spanish justice will convict the former king, Juan Carlos I, of corruption and money laundering. However, this case has already shown that the Spanish government has helped someone under investigation over corruption and money laundering to flee the country and is still providing him protection. There is, then, little doubt the Spanish administration is trying to shore up the 78 regime.
On Tuesday, the President of the Spanish Supreme Court and the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Carlos Lesmes, defended the actions of the judiciary against the Catalan pro-independence movement in the judicial forum of the Madrid Bar Association. He defined it as the “challenge of Catalan institutions that seek to promote the unilateral independence of this part of the national territory by violating the mandates of our constitution.”
According to Lesmes, the judiciary faced campaigns by the pro-independence movement intended to discredit it. “I want to remember campaigns of genuine defamation aimed very specifically at the judiciary, which was described as Franco’s or fascist justice that did not recognize or guarantee human rights,” he said.
Lesmes also defended the 2019 independence trial led by Judge Manuel Marchena, who considered it to be “full of guarantees.” He said “the process had met all the procedural guarantees,” despite the fact that a number of prestigious human right organizations contradicted him and called for the immediate release of the Catalan political prisoners.
He also criticized the fact that international observers wanted to attend the trial. “They wanted to put the suspicion that that Francoist court would make a trial without any guarantees,” he said and defended, as an example, the fact that the Supreme Court made a live online broadcast of the trial.
Official tweet from the Spanish Judiciary: “Regarding the independence challenge, the president of the #TS [Supreme Court] has highlighted the work of judges and magistrates in a situation of special significance for democracy in Spain. Justice responded with the necessary firmness.”
These statements by the highest authority of the Spanish judiciary aroused criticism and accusations from the pro-independence camp.
President Torra: “There is no ‘challenge,’ there are democrats; there is no ‘firmness,’ there is revenge.”
Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Turull: “We guarantee you a just trial and then we will shoot you. Preparing the atmosphere again for the judicial decisions that must come towards independentists, which are not few.”
Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart: “They do not hide: it was a Trial at Democracy, a State Trial against the independentists at the cost of condemning fundamental rights. See you at the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] in Strasbourg!”
On Tuesday, newspaper El Confidencial announced that it had access to a private document signed by Spain’s King’s emeritus, Juan Carlos I, which implicates him in the management of an “offshore” structure used to “hide” €64.8 million euros from Saudi Arabia. In the three documents, Juan Carlos I appears as the first beneficiary of the funds of the Panamanian society, the Lucum Foundation. His son and current King appears as second beneficiary.
The documents show that the Lucum Foundation was created in Panama on July 31, 2008, by a Swiss financial manager, Arturo Fasana, and the lawyer Dante Canonica. Fasana became the president, and Canonica secretary.
The Lucum Foundation was created to act as a front for an account in Switzerland at the Mirabaud bank that received “a donation of €64.8 million made by the King of Saudi Arabia to the King of Spain.”
On March 10, 2011, the Swiss lawyer and Arturo Fasana established the internal regulations by which it would be governed. The new statutes nullified “any previous regime” of the company and appointed Juan Carlos I, King of Spain (Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón) as true owner of the foundation, born on January 5, 1938 in Rome, Italy, meaning that the €64.8 million donation by Saudi Arabia was now property of the Spanish monarch, according to the secret documents. The monarch enjoyed full rights to “freely dispose of the assets of the foundation during his lifetime without any limitation.”
The documents also reveal that if Juan Carlos I died, the money would be under the control of the “second beneficiary,” the current King Felipe VI, “Prince Felipe of Bourbon and Greece, Prince of Asturias, born on January 30, 1968 in Madrid.”
“Following the death of the first beneficiary, the second beneficiary will have the right to dispose of all the assets of the foundation, without any limitation,” the document states.
The conditions for accessing the money There were some conditions required for Spain’s King Felipe V to access the money from the foundation. According to the documents, the current head of state had to comply the stipulations in his father’s will that the funds that remained after his death be used to “guarantee the maintenance of all members of the Spanish royal family, in particular, from SM Queen Sofía of Spain, to S.A.R. the Infanta Elena de Borbón y Grecia, Duchess of Lugo, and her children born or to be born, of S.A.R. the Infanta Cristina de Borbón y Grecia, Duchess of Palma of Mallorca, and her children born or to be born.”
In other words, in practice, the entire royal family and even possible new members, such as future children of the infantas, appeared as beneficiaries of the account in Switzerland.
Dissolution in 2012 The foundation was dissolved in September 2012. By then, the King Emeritus had only spent a small part of the €64.8 million ($100 million at the time) that he had received from Saudi Arabia as an alleged donation. The monarch transferred the remaining money to his then lover, Corinna Larsen, and closed the Panamanian structure.
On Monday, Spain’s Supreme Court Public Prosecutor began proceedings to investigate King Emeritus, Juan Carlos I, for money laundering and fiscal crime. The investigation was initiated by the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office and has now been taken over by the public prosecutor.
The investigation focuses on the criminal activities which occurred after June, 2014, when the monarch abdicated and his immunity, enshrined in article 56.3 of the Spanish constitution as head of state, terminated.
The investigation originates from a case uncovered by the Swiss newspaper, Geneva Tribune, in March. It reported that the Swiss Prosecutor’s Office was investigating a “donation” of $100 million from the King of Saudi Arabia to Spain’s King Emeritus in a Swiss bank account for an alleged inter-mediation in the AVE contract to Mecca.
The transfer was made at the Mirabaud bank of the Panamanian Lucum foundation, linked to the emeritus king in 2008. The king closed the account in 2012 when Switzerland tightened its anti-money laundering legislation and distributed the remaining money to two of his ex-partners: $65 million to Corinna Larsen and $2 million to Marta Gayá.
Corinna Larsen revealed the commission received by Juan Carlos I in a secret conversation with former police Commissioner, José Villarejo, jailed in 2017 for criminal organization, bribery and money laundering. In the conversation, Corinna asserted that the king took that commission and that he used figureheads to hide his fortune. “He does not distinguish between legal and illegal.”
The alleged commission was paid in 2008, but the investigators must determine whether the king laundered money by moving it around, or if he committed a fiscal crime by not informing the Treasury of his income abroad.
Prosecutor Juan Ignacio Campos, an expert in economic cases, will lead the inquiry, which will look into the events in which Juan Carlos was involved from June 2014. The emeritus king cannot be tried for anything occurred before due to his immunity.
The Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office opposes the release of jailed Catalan civil society leader and president of Òmnium, Jordi Cuixart, while the Constitutional Court (TC) reviews the sentence resulted from the 2017 independence referendum. The prosecutor considers the prison sentence too high to be suspended. After hearing the parties’ pronouncement, the TC will have to make a decision.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office also declared that the sentence must be completed in order to ensure the “deterrent” effect in the face of possible crimes that may be committed by the rest of society.
Òmnium has reprimanded Pedro Sánchez for missing “the last chance to correct the violation of rights before going to European courts.” The entity emphasizes that the prosecution has taken this decision, ignoring the calls of Amnesty International and major international human rights organizations.
Òmnium vice-president, Marcel Mauri, also reminded that Sánchez said that “the public prosecutor was under his orders” and that it is the same prosecutor who opposes the freedom of Cuixart and the other political prisoners.
The prisoners filed appeals for protection between February and March, just before the pandemic erupted. This is the last step before they can bring their cases to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but it is also the step that can be extended the longest because the Constitutional Court usually takes years to resolve this type of appeal.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office has filed an appeal at the Barcelona High Court against the decision to grant jailed Catalan leader Jordi Sànchez permission, based on the article 100.2, to leave prison to work and volunteer for a few hours each week.
The prosecutor argues that prison sentences must serve to set a social example:
“The purpose of re-education and social reintegration indicated in article 25.2 of the Constitution has the purpose of special prevention and social intimidation to dissuade people in the commission of new crimes,” argues the public prosecutor.
“This means that when it comes to crimes considered serious, as analyzed here, the penalty must be identified by society and then affected as an effective sanction, in order to maintain confidence in the state of Law and in the good functioning of the Public Administration, affirming the maxim that Justice is equal for all,” he adds.
The prosecutor criticized the judge who endorsed the permission for Jordi Sànchez and scorned voluntary service of political prisoners. “If volunteering is the alternative to staying in a Penitentiary Center, the choice seems clear and lacks all merit,” he concluded.
Carlos Vidal, one of the members of the Spanish Electoral Board (JEC) who voted to disqualify the President of the Generalitat, Quim Torra, and MEP Oriol Junqueras, was a member of the right-wing party PP until a few weeks before his appointment, InfoLibre informs.
When asked by InfoLibre, Vidal admits that he did not mention that he was a member of PP to members of the Congress because he no longer had a party membership. “Nothing should be mentioned,” he says. In addition, he says that he did not intend to abstain from voting on pro-independence politicians because he believes “there was no reason to do so.”
This information comes after the scandal of Andrés Betancor, another JEC member who worked as a C’s party advisor while also fulfilling his duties in the central electoral body. He participated in the exclusion of the candidature of Carles Puigdemont in the 2019 European elections and banned the nominations of exiled Catalan leaders Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.
President Quim Torra, who has filed a lawsuit agaisnt Andrés Betancor for prevarication and election crime, has also spoken on the news about Carlos Vidal and the PP party in a tweet: “Everyone has the right to have their cause heard equally and publicly and within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court …” Art 47. Letter of Fundamental Rights EU. PP members judging us. How far Europe is!”
The defense of jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras is preparing an appeal in the General Court of the European Union (EGC) against the decision of the European Parliament to exclude him as Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Precautionary measures will be required for the EGC to suspend the decision of David Sassoli, President of the Euro-Chamber, and the court will have to determine whether to accept it within a few hours after the appeal is presented.
The General Court of the European Union (EGC) is a constituent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It hears cases against institutions of the European Union by individuals and member states.
According to article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), any citizen can file an appeal against the acts of European institutions that directly affect him/her. The procedure for this appeal may take several months, but the precautionary measures will be pronounced immediately, a few hours after the petition has been registered. The EGC could accept or reject them. If they are accepted, the European Parliament will be obliged to recognize Junqueras as an MEP again.
The parallel route to the ECJ
In parallel with the appeal to the EGC, Junqueras’ defense will file an appeal against the Spanish Supreme Court’s decision to keep him in prison. If this move fails, Junqueras’ defense will appeal to the Spanish Constitutional Court for violation of his political and constitutional rights. The next and final step would be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
On Monday, the news that the exiled and jailed Catalan leaders Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Oriol Junqueras will be allowed to take up their seats as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) caused immediate political turmoil in Spain. The European Parliament officially announced that it will recognize the Catalan leaders as MEPs through a communique during the morning. This decision came after the European Court of Justice ruled on December 19 that the Catalans leaders have immunity.
While Catalan authorities celebrated the EU Parliament decision, the Spanish far-right and the right-wing, which had been attempting to prevent them from becoming MEPs, accused the EU Parliament of violating Spanish sovereignty and suggested that there had been an under the table agreement between the EU authorities and pro-independence forces, though no evidence was presented.
Regarding Spain’s Electoral Authority’s decision on barring Catalan President Torra from office and to veto Junqueras from becoming MEP despite the European Court of Justice immunity ruling, Torra said he was “proud that both the Catalan Parliament and the EU Parliament had disregarded Spain’s electoral Authority.”
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, first tweeted a prompt “mission accomplished.” Later he demanded also the annulment of the trial over the 2017 independence referendum because “the trial shouldn’t have taken place due to Junqueras’ immunity.”
Junqueras’ lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, called for his client’s release: “Junqueras is an MEP. He has parliamentary immunity. He must be released to be able to go to the European Parliament.”
Spanish far-right and right-wing reaction
The three main unionist parties, Ciutadans (C’s), People’s Party (PP) and the far-right Vox asked the EU Parliament to revoke its decision recognizing the Catalan leaders as MEPs.
The spokesperson of the PP in the EU Parliament, Dolors Montserrat, accused the EU Parliament President, Sassoli, of an under the table agreement with those seeking Catalan independence. In a letter, Montserrat also recalled that the Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) ruled that Junqueras cannot be an MEP because he has been convicted by the Supreme Court. She also defended that the JEC is a “legitimate and competent” body in Spain.
The head of Cs’ delegation to the European Parliament, Luís Garicano, called on the chamber’s president, David Sassoli, to “revoke” and “reconsider” as well as to take into account the Spanish electoral authority veto. Garicano also announced that his party had already appealed the decision.
The head of the People’s Party in Spain, Pablo Casado, criticized the Socialist government’s “inaction” on the matter and called on Sassoli to “revoke his decision on Junqueras, who has been sentenced and barred from office for sedition and misuse of funds.” He also added that his party would “always defend Spanish institutions and respect for the law.”
The leader of the far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, accused Brussels of “trampling over Spanish sovereignty” and said that “the enemies of Spain in Europe want to take advantage of us having a treacherous prime minister to weaken our nation further.”