The former king of Spain made his first trip to the country on Thursday after nearly two years in exile following a financial scandal that has sparked widespread criticism.
Although prosecutors closed their investigation into Juan Carlos I in March, revelations about the unclear source of his fate have done irreparable damage to a figure who was once honored for his role in Spain’s transition to democracy after decades of dictatorship.
“What we’ve heard in recent years is very worrying for everyone involved in the presidency,” Economy Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calvino told Cadena Ser Radio.
“No doubt we need some explanation.”
The 84-year-old former king arrived at a resort near Sanjenco on a private jet in Vigo, northwestern Spain, on Thursday evening, three days before the regatta, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
His yacht, the “Bribon” – “rogue” for Spanish – is participating, and the same ship with which he and his crew won the world sailing title in 2017.
He was greeted at Vigo Airport by his eldest child, Prince Elena, who hugged him, before boarding a car that would take him to Sanjenxo.
On Monday, he traveled to Madrid to meet his wife Sophia, his son King Felipe VI and other family members, and left for Abu Dhabi the same day “where he has established his permanent residence,” the palace said late Wednesday night.
He has been living in self-imposed exile since August 2020.
The visit reflects the former king’s “desire to visit his family and friends in Spain regularly”, stating that such gatherings would be conducted “in a private environment”.
The government opposes the palace slipover
According to Spanish media, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez vehemently opposed any suggestion to allow him to spend the night at the royal residence, the Gerzuela Palace.
Sanchez’s junior coalition partner, hard-line leftist Podemos, has expressed outrage at his visit.
“Anyone returning to our country with a record like King Juan Carlos I will be arrested and tried as soon as he crosses the border,” it tweeted.
After nearly 40 years on the throne, it was a scandal that led to Juan Carlos’ downfall, first forcing him to leave in 2014 and then fleeing to the UAE, over allegations of financial corruption.
Announcing his departure in 2020, the former king said he was leaving because of “some past events in my personal life that have provoked a backlash from the public”, expressing hope that Felipe could carry out his royal duties with the necessary “peace and quiet”. .
About 18 months later, Spanish prosecutors suspended their investigation into his finances, concluding that they had “not allowed any criminal proceedings” against him.
They cited various reasons, including “lack of criminal evidence, restrictions, restrictions on the head of state, and tax regularization” in recent years.
Although they confirmed the identification of “fraudulent money from the treasury” between 2008 and 2012, they said the tax authorities were able to recover more than five million euros, “an amount related to tax arrears”.
Since leaving, Juan Carlos has twice settled a tax debt of five million euros on undeclared income that was widely seen as a bid to avoid a criminal charge.
Legally fine, morally questionable
An El Pais editorial on Thursday said, “There is no legal or judicial reason to stop King Emeritus from traveling to Spain, but there are many moral grounds that explain the cause of this chaos.”
In an attempt to restore the monarchy’s image, Philip VI – who took over as king in 2014 – sought to distance himself from his scandal-ridden father.
In March 2020, Felipe ended his father’s annual palace allowance, valued at 200,000 euros ($ 210,000), and relinquished his own claim to what he had inherited from King Emeritus.
Last month, he took steps with the government to increase the transparency of the monarchy by issuing a decree for which the budget of palaces would have to be published and tenders would have to be published.
This means that the royal accounts will be audited, the top officials of the palace must declare their personal assets at the time of taking and leaving a position, and the gifts given to members of the royal family will be listed.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)