Spa­niards ask where for­mer king has gone

JUAN CAR­LOS Ex-monarch slips away amid bribery scan­dal

National Post (National Edition) - - NEWS - MARCO TRU­JILLO AND EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ

MADRID/SANTO DOMINGO • The where­abouts of for­mer king Juan Car­los re­mained a mys­tery on Tues­day after he abruptly left Spain un­der a cloud of scan­dal, and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, where sev­eral Span­ish news­pa­pers re­ported he was, said it had no registry of his ar­rival. One Span­ish media out­let spec­u­lated he was in Por­tu­gal.

The royal palace said on Mon­day that Juan Car­los, who ab­di­cated in 2014 over a pre­vi­ous scan­dal, was leav­ing the coun­try so that his per­sonal af­fairs would not over­shadow his son King Felipe’s reign, in a state­ment that stunned Spa­niards.

The palace did not say where the 82-year-old went, trig­ger­ing in­tense spec­u­la­tion about his where­abouts.

The Mi­gra­tion Office in the Do­mini­can cap­i­tal Santo Domingo said the for­mer king’s last trip to the Caribbean coun­try was from Feb. 28 to March 2. The for­eign min­istry also said it had no in­for­ma­tion about a pos­si­ble ar­rival of Juan Car­los.

Adding to the con­fu­sion, RTVE broad­caster, cit­ing un­named sources close to Juan Car­los, said the for­mer monarch wanted to return to Spain soon and El Mundo quoted an anony­mous per­son close to him say­ing he may come back in September.

Pres­sure had been build­ing on Juan Car­los and Felipe to take ac­tion to pro­tect the monar­chy, after Span­ish and Swiss pros­e­cu­tors started ex­am­in­ing al­le­ga­tions of bribes relating to a high-speed rail con­tract and re­ports of off­shore ac­counts.

Juan Car­los is not for­mally un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in ei­ther coun­try and so is not tech­ni­cally a fugi­tive.

Juan Car­los came to the throne in 1975 after the death of Gen­eral Francisco Franco and was widely re­spected for his role in help­ing guide Spain from dic­ta­tor­ship to democ­racy, but re­cent scan­dals have tar­nished his im­age.

“I think he’s run­ning away like a coward. He should ad­mit what he has done and be up front,” said Madrid res­i­dent Paz Ro­driguez.

Re­tiree San­ti­ago Pradas was more un­der­stand­ing.

“They’re not be­ing fair. There are many politi­cians, many par­ties, who have stolen three times as much,” he said.

Juan Car­los’s lawyer said on Mon­day the ex-king was “at the dis­posal” of pros­e­cu­tors. Nei­ther the lawyer nor the Royal House have com­mented on whether Juan Car­los has left Spain or where he is. Via his lawyer, the ex-king has re­peat­edly de­clined to com­ment on the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions.

La Van­guardia said Juan Car­los, who is keeping the ti­tle of King Emer­i­tus, left the palace on Sun­day, be­fore go­ing to Por­tu­gal by car on Mon­day and fly­ing on to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic.

The for­mer monarch plans to stay for a few weeks with a fam­ily who made their for­tune in sugar plan­ta­tions, the news­pa­per said, with­out cit­ing a source.

The ABC news­pa­per also said Juan Car­los had gone to the Caribbean coun­try. How­ever El Con­fi­den­cial said he was in Por­tu­gal, not far from Lis­bon.

Asked about his where­abouts, Por­tu­gal’s for­eign min­istry replied that it had noth­ing to say, while local au­thor­i­ties in the re­gion had no in­for­ma­tion.

Pros­e­cu­tors in Geneva and Madrid are look­ing into off­shore ac­counts and pos­si­ble bribes. The Geneva pros­e­cu­tor’s office did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. In Spain, the Supreme Court’s pros­e­cu­tor’s office said it was car­ry­ing on with its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, adding that Juan Car­los’s de­ci­sion to leave changed noth­ing.

Switzer­land clas­si­fies the Do­mini­can Repub­lic as a coun­try with which ju­di­cial co­op­er­a­tion is “very dif­fi­cult,” but Spain has an ex­tra­di­tion agree­ment with it.

Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez said he re­spected the royal house­hold’s de­ci­sion.

“Institutio­ns should not be judged, peo­ple should be judged. In this case, Juan Car­los has said clearly he is at the dis­posal of the le­gal sys­tem if nec­es­sary, just like any other Spa­niard,” he told a news con­fer­ence.

His left­ist Pode­mos al­lies took a much harsher stance, say­ing Juan Car­los was “try­ing to evade jus­tice” and putting the fu­ture of the monar­chy in ques­tion.

Jose Juan Toharia of polling firm Metroscopi­a said the royal house­hold’s han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion would go down well with Spa­niards, be­cause Juan Car­los had said he would an­swer any le­gal case and Felipe is trusted by 70 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

JAIME REINA / AFP VIA GETTY IM­AGES FILES

Spain’s for­mer king Juan Car­los has left his coun­try un­der a cloud of mys­tery and cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions.

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