Monday, September 26

Ten years of the week that shook the Crown


Juan Carlos I apologizes after being discharged for an operation after the Botswana accident. / EFE

Botswana, Corinna, Torres’ emails and the economic crisis unleashed the storm that ended with the abdication in 2014

Melchor Saiz-Pardo

What happened that week was a perfect storm that broke out, however, on ground already fertilized by controversy and scandals. What happened ten years ago now in the Royal House -between April 13 and 18, 2012- forever changed the course of the Spanish Crown. The accident in Botswana, the photo of the elephant, the increasingly well-founded suspicions that the head of state had a mistress, the emails from Urdangarin and the shot in the foot by Froilán were mixed in an explosive cocktail that led two years later, in June 2014, at the abdication of Juan Carlos I.

No one could imagine that on that Saturday, April 14, the anniversary of the Second Republic, the Spanish were going to forget for a while about the worrying economic situation of a country that had returned from Easter with the threat of a European bailout, with historic drops in the bags, with the first risk above 400 points and unemployment exceeding 23%. That Saturday morning the news was known that Juan Carlos I had had to undergo emergency surgery in Madrid that morning after breaking his hip on three sides the night before in a luxury hunting camp in the Okavango Delta , in Botswana. The emeritus had fallen celebrating the hunt on Wednesday the 11th of an elephant whose death (valued at $100,000) had been given to him by his friend and ‘patron’ of the trip, the Saudi businessman Mohamed Eyad Kayali.

The eldest grandson of Juan Carlos I, Froilán, shoots himself in the foot while playing with a prohibited shotgun for his age on his father’s farm in Soria.

Monday 9 / Tuesday 10 April

The King flies from Torrejón to the Botswana airport in a private jet, accompanied by Corina and her son. From there, they travel by helicopter to a luxury camp in the Okavango River Delta.

Juan Carlos shoots a healthy young elephant valued at 100,000 euros in the hunt. The death of the animal is borne by the friend of the monarch, the Saudi businessman Mohamed Eyad Kayali.

Friday April 13. Early morning

The King, after a very long party, falls in the ‘resort’ and breaks his hip in three parts.

Saturday April 14. morning

The hitherto unpublished photo of Juan Carlos I in 2006 on another pachyderm hunt with well-known safari organizer Jeff Rann is published.

Urdangarin’s partner, Diego Torres, airs the first emails proving that Juan Carlos de Borbón was aware of his son-in-law’s shady dealings.

“I am so sorry.

I have made a mistake

and it won’t come back

to happen”

The King leaves the clinic. At the doors of the room he apologizes publicly. “I am so sorry. I was wrong and it won’t happen again.”

The eldest grandson of Juan Carlos I, Froilán, shoots himself in the foot while playing with a prohibited shotgun for his age on his father’s farm in Soria.

Monday 9 / Tuesday 10 April

The King flies from Torrejón to the Botswana airport in a private jet, accompanied by Corina and her son. From there, they travel by helicopter to a luxury camp in the Okavango River Delta.

Juan Carlos shoots a healthy young elephant valued at 100,000 euros in the hunt. The death of the animal is borne by the friend of the monarch, the Saudi businessman Mohamed Eyad Kayali.

Friday April 13. Early morning

The King, after a very long party, falls in the ‘resort’ and breaks his hip in three parts.

Saturday April 14. morning

Zarzuela makes public that the head of state has undergone emergency surgery after an accident in Botswana. The first information already anticipates that he was hunting elephants.

The hitherto unpublished photo of Juan Carlos I in 2006 on another pachyderm hunt with well-known safari organizer Jeff Rann is published.

Urdangarin’s partner, Diego Torres, airs the first emails proving that Juan Carlos de Borbón was aware of his son-in-law’s shady dealings.

“I am so sorry.

I have made a mistake

and it won’t come back

to happen”

The King leaves the clinic. At the doors of the room he apologizes publicly. “I am so sorry. I was wrong and it won’t come back

to happen”.

The eldest grandson of Juan Carlos I, Froilán, shoots himself in the foot while playing with a prohibited shotgun for his age on his father’s farm in Soria.

Monday 9 / Tuesday 10 April

Juan Carlos shoots a healthy young elephant valued at 100,000 euros in the hunt. The death of the animal is borne by the friend of the monarch, the Saudi businessman Mohamed Eyad Kayali.

Friday April 13. Early morning

The King, after a very long party, falls in the ‘resort’ and breaks his hip in three parts.

Saturday April 14. morning

Zarzuela makes public that the head of state has undergone emergency surgery after an accident in Botswana. The first information already anticipates that he was hunting elephants.

The hitherto unpublished photo of Juan Carlos I in 2006 on another pachyderm hunt with well-known safari organizer Jeff Rann is published.

Urdangarin’s partner, Diego Torres, airs the first emails proving that Juan Carlos de Borbón was aware of his son-in-law’s shady dealings.

“I am so sorry.

I have made a mistake

and it won’t come back

to happen”

The King leaves the clinic. At the doors of the room he apologizes publicly. “I am so sorry. I was wrong and it won’t come back

to happen”.

The frivolity of the head of state to go to Africa in the most economically complicated days of the recent history of Spain spread like wildfire. To make matters worse, that getaway at such critical moments for his country -as was already anticipated in some social networks and gossip- had been with his lover, a supposed princess with an unpronounceable name: Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. Juan Carlos I, in addition, had taken her son, a minor under 10 years old, to Botswana to witness the pachyderm hunt as a male initiation rite.

The popular discomfort was ‘in crescendo’ with the hours because it was raining pouring rain, as the CIS had already been warning in those days, where the monarchy had suspended for the first time in the 35 years of reign. On November 7 of the previous year the ‘Nóos case’ had broken out and since then the investigation by the Audiencia de Palma had strengthened the evidence that Iñaki Urdangarin, with the acquiescence and help of his mother-in-law, was involved in several hits.

Shortly before that fateful week for Zarzuela, on February 25, the husband of the Infanta Cristina had declared as accused in Palma. Although since December 2011 he had been ‘away’ from the Royal House, his very long statement had caused wear and tear on the Crown from which he had not yet recovered. The elephant photo and the luxury trip with wild animal hunts and a lover grated with the promises of “exemplarity” made by Don Juan Carlos in his Christmas Eve speech three and a half months before from Botswana.

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Nor did another of the legs of the family, that of the Marichalars, give an image of “exemplarity”, involved in an investigation after on April 8 the eldest grandson of don Juan Carlos, Floilán, had shot himself in the foot while playing with a shotgun at his father’s family farm in Soria.

But the storm of those days had only just begun. An unexpected guest was going to take advantage of the most delicate moments of the Crown to start his offensive. Diego Torres, Urdangarin’s partner in Nóos, on Tuesday, April 17, decided to start his campaign to filter compromising emails for the Head of State. Those first three emails already pointed out that Juan Carlos I, with the knowledge of the Infanta Cristina, had moved his strings and influences for years to seek Urdangarin business, positions and sponsorships to enrich himself directly and without too many scruples.

eleven words

One day after those first emails, Juan Carlos I left the San José Hospital in Madrid. On April 18 in the middle of the afternoon, in a very measured choreographed appearance, the Head of State, with a rueful face, spoke eleven words: “I am very sorry. I was wrong and it won’t happen again.”

That unprecedented ‘mea culpa’ put an end to that week ten years ago that marked the Spanish Crown forever and marked the beginning of the end of the reign of Juan Carlos I, who finally abandoned the throne on June 18, 2014, 26 months after the Botswana accident.

That week was also the beginning of the end of his romance with Corinna and of his happy days. From those days of April 2012, the sprees and the hunts would gradually give way to legal problems due to the millionaire gifts in Arabia, the opaque foundations in tax havens, the alleged harassment of her ex-lover and the voluntary ‘exile’ to Abu Dhabi, where Don Juan Carlos has decided to maintain his residence and where this Easter he has been visited by his two daughters, Elena and Cristina, as well as some of his grandchildren, specifically Victoria Federica Marichalar and Juan, Pablo, Miguel and Irene Urdangarin.


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