Friday, December 4

Spain puzzles over ex-King Juan Carlos’s whereabouts


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Reuters

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Juan Carlos is under investigation in Spain, as well as in Switzerland

There is intense speculation in the Spanish media about the whereabouts of embattled ex-King Juan Carlos, after his shock announcement on Monday that he was leaving the country.

The 82-year-old, who is targeted by a corruption probe, announced the move in a letter posted on the royal website.

It gave no details about his destination, but some reports suggest he has gone to the Dominican Republic.

Juan Carlos said he would be available if prosecutors needed to speak to him.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says he does not know where the former king is.

In June, Spain’s Supreme Court opened an investigation into Juan Carlos’ alleged involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia.

BBC Europe correspondent Nick Beake says it is a humiliating exit for a king who had once seemed set to go down in history as the leader who skilfully guided Spain to democracy after the death of General Franco in 1975.

In 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated and handed over to his son Felipe.

What do Spanish media say?

Newspapers give various accounts about the former king’s travels.

La Vanguardia says he went to Portugal early on Monday, and was planning to fly to the Dominican Republic to stay with friends.

ABC, another daily, said he was already in the Dominican Republic. But El Confidencial said he could be in Portugal, France or Italy.

El Pais meanwhile has so far refrained from speculating about Juan Carlos’s whereabouts.

In Portugal, media said he was in the resort towns of Estoril or Cascais.

There are no reports from the Dominican Republic that he is in the Caribbean country.

What did the letter say?

In the letter, the former monarch wrote that he was leaving “in the face of the public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are generating” and in the hope of allowing his son to carry out his functions as king with “tranquillity”.

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EPA

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King Felipe VI (right) has been trying to distance himself from his father Juan Carlos

The statement from the Zarzuela palace said that King Felipe VI had conveyed “his heartfelt respect and gratitude” to his father for this decision.

In March, King Felipe VI renounced the inheritance of his father.

The royal palace also said at the time that Juan Carlos would stop receiving an annual grant of €194,000 ($228,000; £174,520).

What have leading politicians been saying?

Prime Minister Sanchez addressed the media after a cabinet meeting and stressed the government’s “absolute respect” for Juan Carlos’s decision to relocate abroad.

In Spain it was necessary to judge people, not institutions, he said. The country always needed “stability and robust institutions” which came with “transparency and regeneration”.

But the move has caused tension with the prime minister’s left-wing coalition partner, Podemos.

Irene Montero, Spain’s equality minister, said Podemos had not been aware of any negotiations between the royal household and the government.

She said the departure of Juan Carlos left the Spanish royal family in a “very compromised and delicate position” and that the people of Spain “would not accept more corruption or more impunity”.

What is the corruption investigation about?

Spain’s Supreme Court has said it aims to establish Juan Carlos’s connection with the Saudi Arabia contract after his abdication.

Spanish firms won a €6.7bn (£6bn) deal to build a Mecca-Medina rail link.

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Media captionJuan Carlos abdicated in 2014

The probe involves Swiss banks too.

Spanish anti-corruption officials suspect that the former king kept some undeclared funds in Switzerland, and a Swiss investigation is under way.

The Spanish government has said that “justice is equal for all” and it would “not interfere” in the inquiry.

King Juan Carlos

  • Born in Rome, Italy, in 1938
  • Ascends the throne on 22 November 1975, two days after the death of fascist dictator Gen Francisco Franco
  • Juan Carlos was widely admired for steering Spain to democracy during a difficult period
  • But towards the end of his 39-year reign he drew growing criticism
  • Abdicates on 18 June 2014 in favour of his son Felipe



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