| 2 December 2023, Saturday |

Spain’s exiled former king makes second visit home

Juan Carlos, the disgraced former monarch of Spain, visited his homeland on Wednesday for the second time since he relocated to Abu Dhabi in 2020 due to fraud inquiries.

According to an AFP photographer on the scene, the 85-year-old traveled from London to Vigo in northwest Spain on a private jet and attended Real Madrid’s 2-0 victory against Chelsea in the Champions League.

He will spend several days in the nearby resort of Sanxenxo, where he stayed in May 2022 during his first trip back to Spain since going into self-imposed exile in the UAE.

His yacht “El Bribon” — Spanish for “The Rascal” — will take part in a regatta over the weekend, as it did last year.

Neither the Royal Palace nor Spain’s leftist government commented on the visit, with government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez saying she had “nothing to say about this topic”.

“It is a personal decision” on the part of the former king, she added.

Last year’s visit sparked much criticism, especially from parties on the left which demand he account for the scandals that prompted his 2014 abdication in favour of his son, Felipe.

“Explanations for what?” he retorted when a television journalist asked if he would explain his behaviour.

The former monarch is expected to be more discreet this time.

In an editorial, the pro-monarchy ABC newspaper said it “hopes this trip is carried out with intelligence, austerity and discretion because controversies regarding King Felipe VI’s father are always used by the enemies of the Crown.”

Spanish prosecutors in March 2022 closed three probes into his finances due to insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations, but said several irregularities had been found.

Revelations about the murky origins of his fortune have done irreparable damage to a figure once revered for his role in Spain’s transition to democracy following the death of long-time dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975.

‘Completely inappropriate’

Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzon called the visit “completely inappropriate”.

Juan Carlos “does a lot of damage to the image of Spain and the image of the monarchy,” he added.

“This is a person who was targeted by a number of judicial investigations and even if they were ended thanks to the statute of limitations, they showed he is not innocent.”

Garzon is the coordinator of the tiny United Left party, a junior member of the minority coalition government led by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Juan Carlos is not expected to travel to Madrid to meet with his son, King Felipe VI as he did last year when he came to Sanxenxo.

The Royal Palace was reportedly not pleased with the high-profile nature of Juan Carlos’ visit last year.

Since becoming king in June 2014, Felipe VI has tried to distance himself from his father and set out to restore the monarchy’s prestige.

He ordered an audit of the royal household’s accounts and issued a “code of conduct” for its members.

The following year he stripped his older sister, Princess Cristina, of her title of duchess as she prepared to stand trial on tax fraud charges.

While she was ultimately cleared by the courts, her husband Inaki Urdangarin was convicted of fraud and embezzlement.

Then in 2020, Felipe renounced any future personal inheritance he might receive from his father, and stripped him of his annual allowance of 200,000 euros ($219,000) after fresh details of his allegedly shady dealings emerged.


  • AFP