Great Britain

Spain's scandal-hit former king Juan Carlos to go into exile

Spain’s former king Juan Carlos is to leave the country and go into exile abroad following a series of damaging allegations about his financial arrangements that have harmed the reputation of the monarchy and embarrassed his son, King Felipe.

In March Felipe stripped Juan Carlos of his annual stipend and renounced his own personal inheritance from his father after reports that he was in line to receive millions of euros from a secret offshore fund with ties to Saudi Arabia.

Three months later, Spain’s supreme court launched an investigation into the former king’s role in a deal in which a Spanish consortium landed a €6.7bn (£5.9bn) contract to build a high-speed rail line between the Saudi cities of Medina and Mecca.

On Monday afternoon the royal house published a letter sent by Juan Carlos to his son saying he would “move away from Spain” in the wake of the “public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are causing”.

The 82-year-old king emeritus, as he is now known in Spain, said he had taken the decision to leave the royal palace and the country to help Felipe “exercise his responsibilities” as king.

Juan Carlos added: “This is a very emotional decision, but one I take with great serenity. I have been king of Spain for almost 40 years and throughout them all I have always wanted what is best for Spain and the crown.”

The letter did not mention where the former king would go, nor when exactly he would leave Spain.

The royal house said Felipe had expressed its “gratitude and respect” for the decision. It also said the current king was keen to stress “the historical importance of his father’s reign” and his service to Spain and to democracy.

Juan Carlos played a pivotal role in restoring democracy to Spain following the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975, not least when he stood firm in the face of an attempted military coup in 1981.

But in recent years the revelations about his private life and financial affairs have tarnished what was once seen as one of Europe’s model monarchies.

Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of Felipe six years ago after a series of scandals including over a controversial elephant-hunting trip to Botswana as Spain was devastated by the financial crisis.

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