Friday, January 21, 2022

Spain’s ex-King facing corruption allegations goes into exile


Spain’s former king Juan Carlos, who has been facing corruption allegations, has left the country, according to reports.

The nation’s supreme court opened an inquiry in June into his involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia which was granted to Spanish companies in 2011.

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The investigation came after Switzerland’s La Tribune de Geneve newspaper reported he had received $100m (£75m) from the late Saudi King Abdullah.

The ex-Spanish monarch allegedly then transferred a large amount to a businesswoman, in what investigators are considering as a possible attempt to hide the money from authorities.

Juan Carlos, 82, has declined to comment on the allegations. His lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco, said despite his decision to leave, the former king would “remain at the disposal of the prosecutors’ office”.

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The corruption claims have eroded public confidence in the country’s monarchy.

Earlier in the day, Juan Carlos had informed his son, King Felipe, of his intention to leave.

“I am informing you of my considered decision to move, during this period, out of Spain,” he said in a letter published on the royal family’s website.

Juan Carlos said he came to the decision against the backdrop of “public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are generating”.

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He said he wanted to ensure he did not make his son’s role as monarch difficult.

King Felipe, 52, thanked Juan Carlos for his decision, underlining “the historic importance that his father’s reign represents” for democracy in Spain.

But deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias, who heads the far-left Podemos party in the ruling coalition, called the move to leave the country “an act unworthy of a former head of state” and said it compromised the monarchy.

In March, King Felipe renounced his own inheritance and stripped his father of his palace allowance after the corruption allegations surfaced.

Spanish monarchs have immunity during their reign but Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014, potentially leaving himself vulnerable to prosecution.

The El Mundo newspaper reported he has left Spain. His current whereabouts were not known.

Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975 after the death of General Francisco Franco and was widely respected for his role in helping guide Spain from dictatorship to democracy.

But his popularity sank in later years because of a series of scandals, leading to him stepping down.

There was outrage over an expensive elephant-hunting trip he made to Botswana in 2012, during a time when Spain was facing austerity, recession and soaring unemployment. He later apologised.

His daughter Princess Cristina was accused of tax fraud in 2014 and became the first Spanish royal to stand trial. She was acquitted in 2017, but her husband Inaki Urdangarin was sentenced to nearly six years in jail.

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