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opinion

Kingly interference

The king's behavior ought to have been strictly in line with his own words: the law is the same for everyone, and the royal family's conduct has to be exemplary

In a famous scene in The Third Man, Harry Lime explains to his friend the ethics of his adulterated penicillin racket. Seen from on high, people lose their human aspect and seem to be "dots" that can be erased for profit.

This how Urdangarin must have felt when he set up a sports and culture foundation for disabled children, which was to serve him, allegedly, as a vehicle for the most abject of his alleged rackets. Seen from the hauteur of a member of the royal family, the disabled kids were just dots who had to be given a certain minimum - just enough to go on with the appropriation of donations and their spiriting away into tax havens.

The point, then, is not just the money, but the profound immorality that has marked the whole history of the Nóos Institute, culminating in the above episode. As for Princess Cristina's awareness and implication - the grounds for Judge Castro's decision to target her as a suspect - there is no reason for doubt either. Any person of normal intelligence has to see that the couple's incomes were not sufficient for the purchase of their palatial mansion in Pedralbes. Cristina assented to her husband's lucrative use of the influences deriving from her royal condition; she accepted the role of co-founder of Aizoon, the firm that managed the siphoning of funds. If to this we add that the law accords her no sort of immunity, it is out of place to wonder whether the judge is empowered to question her; unless privilege and impunity are in the picture, as was suggested by her thoughtless response to journalists who tried to talk to her in Washington the same day that Urdangarin skedaddled on the run: they were to blame for what was happening.

The time seems to have come to throw the whole weight of the Crown against the normal progress of the case

In this murky context, the king's behavior ought to have been strictly in line with his own words: first, the law is the same for everyone, and second, the royal family's conduct has to be exemplary. Perhaps he didn't imagine things would go so far. But the fact is that the Royal Household has shown increasing signs of malaise; which, with respect to judges, amounts to a pressure far heavier than that of public opinion.

The reaction to Judge Castro's ruling is a point of no return, probably redoubled by pressures from conservative political circles in spite of initial neutrality. Now we see the anti-corruption prosecutor's outlandish objection to the collection of further data on a serious case of corruption; we hear attacks on the judge. The public statement issued by the Royal Household (i.e., by the king) dispels any doubt: the time has come to throw the whole weight of the Crown against the normal progress of the case. Don Juan Carlos may feel "surprise" in private; the public expression of it indicates displeasure - or should the judge have notified him first? And the "absolute conformity" with the prosecutor's objection can only be termed interference. The king is not responsible before the law; therefore he must not, directly or indirectly, do anything indicative of a role of responsibility, much less if it conditions judicial action.

There must be no lions under the throne, as James I wanted, nor judges subject to a pressure whose promoters forget that the king, under the rule of law, has to behave as the first magistrate of a nation, not as the head of a family. His position must be sub Deo et lege, in the words of Coke's classic textbook. In modern terms, he must accept the strict application of the law in a case of corruption in which the monarch's name has been repeatedly used for influence peddling.

I once heard Don Juan Carlos remark that it had taken a lot of effort to obtain his crown. In the present circumstances, he has to put the institution ahead of personal preference. It is the Crown that will pay the bill for any arbitrary intervention, such as the one now under way.