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Former King Abandons Spain in Disgrace as Legal Woes Pile Up

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 8/4/2020 Jeannette Neumann
Juan Carlos I of Spain wearing a suit and tie: Spain´s former King Juan Carlos attends commemorative acts marking the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution at the parliament in Madrid on December 6, 2018. © Photographer: Oscar Del Pozo/AFP via Getty Images Spain´s former King Juan Carlos attends commemorative acts marking the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution at the parliament in Madrid on December 6, 2018.

(Bloomberg) -- Spain’s former King Juan Carlos I said he plans to leave the country he ruled for almost four decades, the latest attempt to quell a furor over allegations of wrongdoing by the once revered ex-monarch.

He took the decision to depart to make it easier for his son, King Felipe VI, to exercise his duties, the former sovereign, said in a letter posted on the royal house’s website Monday.

“Guided by the conviction of giving the best service to Spaniards, their institutions and you as King, I am communicating my considered decision to move, at this time, outside of Spain,” Juan Carlos, 82, said. The step was motivated by the repercussions caused by “certain events” in his private life, he said.

In the missive addressed to Felipe, Juan Carlos didn’t say when he would leave Spain or where his self-exile would take him. The former head of state took a flight from Porto, in Portugal, to the Dominican Republic, ABC newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the information it didn’t identify.

His pending departure marks a humbling end to life in Spain for a monarch who ruled from 1975 to 2014, winning acclaim for the crucial role he played in guiding the nation’s emergence from dictatorship after the death of Francisco Franco. He also faced down a military coup in 1981, further burnishing his reputation as a defender of the country’s fledgling democracy.

‘Unworthy Attitude’

Fleeing abroad is an “unworthy attitude for a former head of state that leaves the monarchy in a very compromised position,” Pablo Iglesias, the deputy prime minister and leader of Podemos party said on Twitter Monday night. “21st-century Spain will not tolerate either corruption or privilege.”

Spain’s main opposition group, the conservative People’s Party, said in a statement that parliamentary monarchy remains a necessary pillar for the country. Juan Carlos played a fundamental role in the establishment of a democratic state, the party said.

In an editorial, El Pais newspaper described his decision to leave as “right, pertinent and responsible.”

Tarnished Image

In recent years, a succession of scandals had tarnished the former head of state’s image in the eyes of many Spaniards.

In 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favor of his son Felipe, 52. Concerns had been mounting that the declining popularity of the monarch would end up turning public opinion against the institution itself.

Two years earlier, the former head of state apologized for going on a hunting expedition to Botswana while Spain was reeling from a devastating financial crisis.

Read More: Spanish King Dumps Inheritance in Bid to Clean Up Royal Image

In March this year, King Felipe announced he was renouncing any future personal inheritance from his father. Felipe also stripped his father of his retirement allowance.

In June, prosecutors with Spain’s Supreme Court said they were probing Juan Carlos’s role in awarding a contract to build a high speed train line between Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia to a group that includes Spanish companies. Despite his pending exit from Spain, Juan Carlos remains available to answer questions from prosecutors, according to an emailed statement by his lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco.

“I have been King of Spain for almost forty years and, during all of those years, I have always wanted the best for Spain and for the Crown,” Juan Carlos wrote to his son.

(Adds political reaction from government and opposition leaders)

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Video: Spain's ex-king leaves country amid scandal (Reuters)

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