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Emeritus King Juan Carlos with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. SUR
Lying low
The Euro Zone opinion

Lying low

Luis Rubiales, the spectacularly fallen former president of the Spanish Football Federation. has plenty in common with the ex-king: as Juan Carlos was back in 2020, he is at the centre of a corruption probe into alleged kickbacks and money-laundering

Mark Nayler

Malaga

Thursday, 28 March 2024, 16:25

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Spain's former king Juan Carlos chose Abu Dhabi, while Catalonia's ex-president Carles Puigdemont opted for Belgium. The getaway destination of choice for Luis Rubiales, the spectacularly fallen former president of the Spanish Football Federation, is currently the Dominican Republic, which shares an island with Haiti (and was a Spanish colony until the mid nineteenth century). Rubiales says he's there for professional purposes, but it is surely no coincidence that he's chosen to pursue interests in the Caribbean while he's so unpopular back home.

In terms of the scandal that prompted his flight abroad, Rubiales has more in common with the ex-king than the rebel politician: as Juan Carlos was back in 2020, he is at the centre of a corruption probe into alleged kickbacks and money-laundering. Puigdemont, of course, was running from the wreckage of a failed secession bid, after triggering a constitutional crisis that still dominates Spanish politics. But all three men had similar motives in fleeing their home country: escaping an outraged public (insofar as that's possible in borderless cyberspace) and/or the possibility of criminal prosecution.

The escape tactic was most successful for Juan Carlos, whose reclusive existence in the United Arab Emirates eventually dulled media interest in the allegations against him. Puigdemont hasn't been quite so lucky, although he has managed to avoid extradition and continue his political career. The former president of Catalonia might also have his records wiped clean if Pedro Sánchez's amnesty bill becomes law, which would enable him to return to Spain - and he's promised to do so if his pro-independence party wins the Catalan elections in May.

Puigdemont would be welcomed back as a hero, at least by separatists. But no such reception awaits Rubiales, who is due to return to Spain next weekend to assist with the corruption probe.

The Rubiales case is similar to the Juan Carlos case in another crucial respect: both involve sex as well as money. In that sense they're both much 'better' scandals than the one surrounding Puigdemont. As well as being investigated for fraud, Juan Carlos was also accused by an ex-lover of harassment (he won that case in a London court last October); and Rubiales ruined his career by giving footballer Jenni Hermoso a kiss in the 2023 World Cup medal ceremony that she says was not consensual.

Self-imposed exile, like a well-timed resignation, can work wonders for a big career. If Juan Carlos were to come home now, he would probably be welcomed by Spaniards as warmly as Puigdemont would be in his home region.

But it's different for Rubiales. Even if proven true, the fraud allegations against him don't really matter: they can't do any more damage to a reputation that was already shredded. Everyone has decided - in lieu of an actual trial - that Rubiales is a sexist monster, a vile predator. Who cares if he's also a fraudster?

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