Spain puzzles over ex-King Juan Carlos’s whereabouts

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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 the subject of a corruption probe, announced the move in a letter on the royal website.

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

However, officials there said they had no information that he was coming.

A spokeswoman for the Caribbean nation’s immigration service said he had not entered the country, despite reports that he had arrived on Tuesday. But she said he had been there for a few days from late February to early March.

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

In his letter, Juan Carlos said he would be available if prosecutors needed to speak to him.

In June, Spain’s Supreme Court opened an investigation into his 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”.

Former King Juan Carlos (left) and King Felipe VI. Photo: May 2019
Image captionKing 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”.

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