Spanish ex-king’s exile: flight or expulsion?
MADRID, Aug 4, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Spaniards were divided Tuesday as
to whether former king Juan Carlos, who is under investigation for
corruption, is trying to escape responsibility for his actions by
Some analysts said the 82-year-old, who has not been charged, did
not have much choice even if his departure was poorly received by the
According to an online poll carried out by conservative and
pro-monarchy daily newspaper ABC, fully 68 percent of Spaniards think
Juan Carlos made the wrong decision.
“He should have stayed, it’s a bit shameful that he left,” said
Aranzazu Catalina, a 43-year-old sales assistant at a high-end
clothing shop in Madrid, a day after the ex-king made his surprise
announcement that he would quit Spain.
Juan Carlos announced the move Monday in a letter addressed to King
Felipe VI, his son and Spain’s current monarch, which was released by
the royal palace.
He said the move would help his son “exercise his responsibilities”
in the face of “the public consequences of certain past events in my
– ‘Kicked out’ –
The former head of state has been under a cloud since news reports
from several sources that he had allegedly received funds from Saudi
Arabia. Investigations are now under way in both Switzerland and
In June, Spain’s Supreme Court announced an investigation to
determine the legal responsibility of the ex-monarch — but only for
acts committed after his abdication in 2014, because of the immunity
The suspicions centre on $100 million (85 million euros) allegedly
paid secretly into a Swiss bank account in 2008.
Several analysts said the former king had not fled, as
anti-monarchists argue, but was in exile.
“It’s an involuntary departure,” said Paloma Roman, politics
professor at Madrid’s Complutense University.
Juan Carlos had been pressured to leave by “the government and his
own son”, she said.
“Felipe has always tried to soften the blows” against the monarchy
as it has been rocked by a series of scandals, she added.
Earlier this year the king withdrew his father’s an annual royal
allowance of nearly 200,000 euros and renounced his inheritance.
“This is not a king who is fleeing, this is a king that is being
kicked out,” said Abel Hernandez, a journalist who was written several
books about Juan Carlos.
Juan Carlos is “leaving to prevent his problems from contaminating
the institution”, he added.
– ‘Questionable conduct’ –
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez suggested that King Felipe VI had
decided that his father should go into exile.
Asked at a press conference Tuesday about Juan Carlos’s move
abroad, Sanchez said he “completely respected the decision of the
royal palace to distance itself from the questionable and
reprehensible conduct” of a member of the royal family.
The former monarch did not mention in his letter where he would go,
but Spanish media said he was in the Dominican Republic staying with
friends for now.
His wife Sofia is still in Spain, a source close to the royal
palace told AFP. The couple have reportedly long been estranged.
The ex-king’s lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco, said his client would
remain available to prosecutors.
Felipe VI’s biographer, Jose Apezarena, said the move abroad would
“not change anything” for Juan Carlos but would make a difference to
Juan Carlos will be “gone for a while but he will not stay forever
abroad” and will return to Spain if summoned for questioning, he
“He is doing it for his son, not for himself,” Apezarena said.
Juan Carlos ascended the throne in 1975 on the death of the fascist
dictator Francisco Franco.
He ruled for 38 years before abdicating in favour of his son Felipe
VI in June 2014, following a steady flow of embarrassing press reports
about his lifestyle and personal wealth.
For years though, he was a popular figure for decades, playing a
key role in the democratic transition from the Franco dictatorship
which ruled Spain from 1939-1975.