MADRID – Speculation over the whereabouts and future of former monarch Juan Carlos gripped Spain on Tuesday, a day after the man who served as king for almost four decades announced he was leaving the country for an unspecified destination amid a growing financial scandal.
In a letter published on the royal family’s website on Monday, Juan Carlos told his son King Felipe VI he was moving outside Spain due to the “public repercussions of certain episodes of my past private life.”
Juan Carlos, 82, is the target of official investigations in Spain and Switzerland, into possible financial wrongdoing.
His bombshell announcement took most Spaniards by surprise. Neither the royal family nor the government disclosed where the former king was going. Juan Carlos appeared to be physically and figuratively distancing himself from the rest of the family to avoid causing any further damage to its reputation.
Daily newspaper ABC reported Tuesday that Juan Carlos left Spain on Sunday and flew via Porto, in neighboring Portugal, to the Dominican Republic. The daily La Vanguardia also said he was in the Caribbean country, but only temporarily.
But El Confidencial newspaper reported that Juan Carlos could still be in Portugal, where he spent part of his childhood, or in France or Italy, where he has family and friends.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Tuesday he had no information on Juan Carlos’ whereabouts. He declined to say whether he knew about the royal plans before they were announced, saying relations between the prime minister and the head of state are “discreet and confidential.”
Nevertheless, Sánchez told a news conference he has “total respect" for the decision taken by the royal family "to distance itself from suspected questionable and reprehensible conduct by a member of the household" — suggesting the decision was made by the king, not his disgraced father. Sánchez called the path being taken by the royal family “appropriate.”