Spain’s embattled ex-King Juan Carlos leaves country

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BBC.COM-Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Juan Carlos is under investigation in Spain, as well as in Switzerland

Spain’s former King Juan Carlos has decided to leave the country, the royal palace says, weeks after he was linked to an inquiry into alleged corruption.

Juan Carlos, 82, made the announcement in a letter to his son, Felipe, to whom he handed power six years ago.

He said he would be available if prosecutors needed to interview him.

In June, Spain’s Supreme Court opened an investigation into the alleged involvement of Juan Carlos in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia.

It was not immediately clear where the former monarch would now reside, but Spanish press reports say he is no longer in the country.

It is a humiliating exit for a king who had seemed set to go down in history as the leader who skilfully guided Spain from dictatorship to democracy after the death of General Franco in 1975, BBC Europe correspondent Nick Beake says.

Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 after nearly 40 years as king following a corruption investigation involving his daughter’s husband and a controversial elephant hunting trip the monarch took during Spain’s financial crisis.

What did the letter say?

In the letter, the former monarch wrote that he was making 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 “tranquillity”.

“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.

“A decision I make with deep emotion but with great serenity,” the letter said.

The statement from the Zarzuela palace said that King Felipe VI had conveyed “his heartfelt respect and gratitude” to his father for this decision.

In March, King Felipe VI renounced the inheritance of his father. The royal palace also said at the time that Juan Carlos would stop receiving an annual grant of €194,000 ($228,000; £174,520).

What is the corruption investigation about?

Spain’s Supreme Court has said it aims to establish Juan Carlos’s connection with the Saudi project after his abdication in June 2014. At that point he lost his immunity from prosecution.

Spanish firms won a €6.7bn (£6bn) deal to build a Mecca-Medina rail link.

The probe involves Swiss banks too.

Spanish anti-corruption officials suspect that the former king kept some undeclared funds in Switzerland, and a Swiss investigation is under way.

The Spanish government has said that “justice is equal for all” and it would “not interfere” in the inquiry.

King Juan Carlos

  • Born in Rome, Italy, in 1938
  • Ascends the throne on 22 November 1975, two days after the death of fascist dictator Gen Francisco Franco
  • Juan Carlos was widely admired for steering Spain to democracy during a difficult period
  • But towards the end of his 39-year reign he drew growing criticism
  • Abdicates on 18 June 2014 in favour of his son Felipe

 

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