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Has Spain's former king fled to the Dominican Republic?

August 4, 2020

Juan Carlos I abdicated the throne in 2014 and has been plagued more recently by accusations of corruption. Spanish media have reported that he left abruptly for the Dominican Republic amid the allegations.

Juan Carlos in car
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/D. Despotovic

Former Spanish king Juan Carlos I has abruptly left his homeland for the Dominican Republic amid a $100 million (€85 million) corruption scandal, according to Spanish media on Tuesday.

The 82-year-old in a letter addressed Monday to King Felipe VI, his son, Juan Carlos Isaid he decided to leave Spain in order to not distract from the work of the reigning monarch. 

A statement published on the royal palace's website did not say where the former king would go, nor when he would be leaving.

Speculation rampant 

On Tuesday, Spanish newspaper ABC reported that he left Spain on Sunday and flew to the Dominican Republic, via Portugal. La Vanguardia also reported that Juan Carlos I flew to the Dominican Republic, but only temporarily. El Mundo reported that friends say they believe he has fled to the Caribbean nation. 

The digital newspaper El Confidencial, however, said he could be in Portugal, France or Italy. 

The former monarch's lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco, also issued a statement on Monday, saying his client was not trying to avoid justice and would remain available to prosecutors.

In March this year, reports began to surface that Juan Carlos I allegedly received illegitimate financial contributions from Saudi Arabia. As a result, investigations are underway in both Switzerland and Spain.

Spain's Supreme Court announced in June a probe to determine the legal responsibility of the former king, but only for conduct following his 2014 abdication due to the immunity he holds.

The allegations center around a $100 million fee paid secretly into a Swiss bank account in 2008.

Mired in controversy

Juan Carlos I took the throne two days after dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, and is credited with helping his country's transition to democracy. While remaining a popular figure for most of his rule, his reign began to unravel in 2012 after a lavish trip to Botswana included a photograph of the then king in front of a dead elephant with a rifle over his shoulder, as Spain suffered a recession at home.

The trip had remained a secret until the image was leaked and a subsequent unprecedented apology was not enough to prevent his reputation from taking a battering.

In 2014, Juan Carlos I abdicated in favor of his son Felipe, saying he was hoping for "a drive for renewal, to overcome and correct mistakes, and open the way to a decidedly better future."

At the time, the royal family was mired in controversy with a scandal involving Juan Carlos' daughter and Felipe's sister, Princess Cristina, who had been accused of financial wrongdoing alongside her husband Inaki Urdangarin. While a court eventually found Cristina not guilty, King Felipe VI stripped his sister of her duchess title in 2015.

Earlier this year, the king removed his father's palace allowance and renounced the inheritance he was due to receive from him after reports of the Swiss probe into financial irregularities began to emerge.

jsi/stb (AFP, Lusa, Reuters)