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Spain left guessing as to whereabouts of Juan Carlos I after he leaves the country

Juan Carlos de Borbón in 2018.
Juan Carlos de Borbón in 2018. / EFE
  • King Felipe VI accepted his father's decision to move abroad with "gratitude" and stressed the "historical importance" of his 39-year reign

People in Spain still did not have confirmation of the whereabouts of their former head of state on Thursday evening. Despite fervent speculation in the media as to where Juan Carlos de Borbón, King of Spain until his abdication in 2014, had gone, the government and the Royal household of his son, Felipe VI, were not giving away any details.

In a statement on Monday, King Juan Carlos said that he had taken a "measured decision" to leave the country due to the repercussions of "certain past events" in his private life and to help his son carry out his role as Head of State without distraction.

"I'm bound [to leave] by my legacy and my personal dignity," he said in the letter made public by the Royal Family.

In response, Felipe VI offered his father his "heartfelt respect and gratitude for his decision" and stressed "the historical importance" of his father's 39-year reign, "as the legacy and political and institutional work at the service of Spain and democracy".

The emeritus king's decision comes after information was revealed regarding a multimillion-euro fortune in Switzerland and tax havens, allegedly part due to the receipt of commissions and illicit financial activity. The main investigation is centring on possible commissions from Saudi Arabia to the King linked to Spanish companies winning a contract to build a high-speed railway to Mecca while he was still King. Juan Carlos had been immune for prosecution while still ruler of Spain.

Rumours had Juan Carlos at this gated estate in the Dominican Republic.

Rumours had Juan Carlos at this gated estate in the Dominican Republic. / EFE

The possibility of undeclared money came to light after a former lover of Juan Carlos was secretly taped discussing his financial affairs. Amid claims and counter claims, complex legal moves are now under way in Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

The lawyer of the former head of state said that despite Juan Carlos' departure from Spain, his client was at the disposal of the Public Prosecution Department "for any formality or action it deems necessary".

During the coronavirus lockdown, King Felipe announced that he was giving up all inheritance from his father, due to the growing allegations of corrupt practice involving funds of which the current king had been put down as a hereditary beneficiary.

Juan Carlos's wife, Queen Sofia, continues living in Spain and will carry out Royal duties. This week she was on her usual holiday at the Marivent palace in Mallorca.

The King was said to have left a yacht club in Galicia on Monday where he was staying before crossing the nearby border to Portugal. According to press speculation, he was either still in Portugal, staying at a friend's estate, or had flown to the Dominican Republic to a secluded luxury development hat he has visited in the past.

Friends were reported as saying that he had no plans to have a fixed address outside Spain and would travel around.