Scandal-hit ex-king returns for first time in 2 years

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s former king returned to the country on Thursday for his first visit since leaving nearly two years ago amid a cloud of financial scandals.

Plans for the visit were confirmed earlier this week by the royal household, who said Juan Carlos I would first visit the northwestern town of Sanxenxo, where a yachting event is planned. He plans to travel to Madrid on Monday to see his son, King Felipe VI, and other members of the royal family, the palace said in a statement.

The royal palace indicates that the 84-year-old ex-monarch will return to his “permanent and stable residence” in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, on Monday. He said his visit to Spain reflected Juan Carlos’ desire to “visit Spain frequently to visit family and friends”.

Juan Carlos left Spain in August 2020 as Spanish and Swiss prosecutors investigate his involvement in alleged financial wrongdoing. The scandals have renewed a debate over whether Spain should have a monarchy.

On Thursday evening, the private flight carrying the former monarch landed in northwestern Spain. He did not speak to the media who had gathered to capture his arrival ahead of a three-day regatta involving his yacht, the “Bribón” – which loosely translates to rascal.

News of his visit divided opinion among Spanish politicians.

“I think all Spanish citizens deserve an explanation,” Spain’s Economic Affairs Minister Nadia Calviño told Cadena Ser television on Thursday.

Yolanda Díaz, second deputy prime minister and prominent member of the United We Can (Unidas Podemos) party, echoed this view.

“For me, it doesn’t matter where the king is,” she told reporters. “What I believe, for the dignity of an institution like the Royal House – and this comes from someone who is not a monarchist – is that it should be held accountable and explain to the Spaniards what he did when he was head of state. .”

Others said it was time to move on.

“The prosecutors have already said that there were irregularities and that these irregularities are not subject to criminal prosecution,” said Edmundo Bal, spokesman for the Ciudadanos party. “That’s it. Period.”

Spanish prosecutors have failed to find evidence to bring the former monarch to justice as much of the alleged misconduct, involving millions of euros (dollars) in undeclared accounts, occurred when Juan Carlos had legal immunity as King of Spain. Other acts of potential fraud were not time-barred.

Investigations led to the recovery of 5.1 million euros ($5.4 million) in fines and income tax that Juan Carlos failed to report to Spanish tax authorities, prosecutors said .

Swiss prosecutors have also dropped their investigation.

Although Juan Carlos is not a main subject of the Swiss investigation, prosecutors said they discovered he received $100 million from the Saudi finance ministry in 2008 before stepping down as king. The investigation also revealed millions of others received by the king or his former partner, the Danish-German entrepreneur Corinna Larsen.

Since becoming king in June 2014, Felipe VI has tried to distance himself from his father. He removed Juan Carlos from the Royal Household payroll to help rebuild the image of the Spanish crown.

Juan Carlos was king from November 1975 until he abdicated and his son took his place. As monarch, Juan Carlos helped return Spain to democracy after the 1975 death of Dictator General Francisco Franco, making him one of Spain’s most respected public figures at the time.

But scandals involving Spain’s royal family began to mount in the final years of his reign. Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014, ending a 39-year term as monarch.

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