Spain’s ex-King Juan Carlos has reportedly arrived in the United Arab Emirates after leaving his home country amid a corruption investigation.
A photograph published by Spanish media group NIUS appears to show Juan Carlos arriving in Abu Dhabi.
The former king made the shock announcement on August 3 that he was leaving Spain.
He denies any wrongdoing and has said he would be available if prosecutors needed to interview him.
Juan Carlos’ departure has sparked a huge debate in Spain about the monarchy and intense speculation about where the former king has gone.
Local reports said the former king had traveled to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean or to Spain’s neighbor, Portugal.
However, there are now reports Juan Carlos is occupying an entire floor at Abu Dhabi’s five-star Emirates Palace hotel. He was reportedly close with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
As yet however his location remains unconfirmed. Spain’s royal family and government have so far declined to comment on his whereabouts.
Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 after close to 40 years in power and handed power to his son Felipe.
The king’s decision to give up the throne came after a corruption investigation involving his daughter’s husband and a controversial elephant hunting trip the monarch took during Spain’s financial crisis.
The controversies however did not stop there. In June this year, Spain’s Supreme Court launched an investigation into Juan Carlos’s alleged involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia, after the ex-king lost his immunity from prosecution following his abdication.
On August 3, Juan Carlos announced he was now leaving his home country in a letter to his son.
He wrote: “Guided by the conviction to best serve the people of Spain, its institutions, and you as king, I inform you of my decision at this time to leave Spain.”
Juan Carlos said he made the decision “in the face of the public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are generating” and in the hope of allowing his son to carry out his functions as king with “tranquility”.
A statement said King Felipe VI had conveyed “his heartfelt respect and gratitude” to his father for this decision.
Juan Carlos’ departure has sparked a fresh debate about the role of the Spanish monarchy and the corruption allegations against the former king.
Catalonia’s parliament – which is controlled by separatist parties who seek independence from Spain – voted in a non-binding motion on August 7 to condemn the monarchy after the ex-king’s departure.
Regional president Quim Torra told lawmakers: “Neither Spaniards nor Catalans deserve such a loud and ridiculous scandal on an international scale.”
There have also been demonstrations calling for Spain to become a republic again.
Spain last removed its monarchy in 1931 before a devastating civil war which ended with the victory of dictator Francisco Franco in 1939.
An investigating judge recommended that Princess Cristina of Spain, sister of King Felipe VI, be charged in a tax fraud and money laundering case that has helped inflame opposition to the monarchy.
Infanta Cristina, 49, was questioned in court in February about the business dealings of her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, and could now face trial.
However, an appeal has been lodged against the decision.
The judge’s ruling will come as an embarrassment to Felipe VI, who came to the throne only six days ago.
The tax fraud case was one of several scandals that weakened the popularity of the Spanish monarchy and prompted the abdication of King Juan Carlos.
Princess Cristina’s appearance in court in Mallorca was unprecedented for the royal family and if she goes to trial, she could face up to 11 years in jail.
Princess Cristina’s appearance in court in Mallorca was unprecedented for the royal family and if she goes to trial
The investigating judge’s decision is a major development in this investigation and a huge embarrassment for the Spanish royal family.
Judge Jose Castro believes Infanta Cristina knew more than she has let on regarding the allegedly corrupt activities of her husband, Inaki Urdangarin.
This inquiry has now lasted more than three years and during that time it has heavily eroded the popularity of the royal family. Princess Cristina has already appeared in court to testify, but the door is now open for her to face trial, which would take the scandal to a new level.
Judge Jose Castro has been investigating allegations that the princess’s husband embezzled millions in public funds with a former business partner.
Inaki Urdangarin, who is the Duke of Palma, and Diego Torres were alleged to have received 5.6 million euros ($7.5 million) by overcharging regional governments for organizing sporting events as part of a not-for-profit organization called Noos.
Announcing his decision, Judge Jose Castro said the princess should be tried alongside her husband and other suspects.
Anti-corruption prosecutors had already opposed his decision to name Princess Cristina as a suspect, saying there was insufficient evidence against her. Prosecutor Pedro Horrach said on Wednesday an appeal was being lodged “because there is still no piece [of evidence] against” the princess.
A final decision on whether Princess Cristina should stand trial will be made by the provincial court at Palma de Mallorca.
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