24th April 2024
Former King Juan Carlos I of Spain
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Ex-king Juan Carlos makes brief return to Spain, will meet Felipe VI on Monday

Updated on Thurs 19 May.

Spain’s former king Juan Carlos I, who abdicated against a backdrop of scandals over his finances and love life, returned to the country on Thursday for his first visit since leaving nearly two years ago amid a cloud of financial scandals. He is staying in Spain from 19 May to 23 May, the Royal Household has confirmed.

On Thursday evening, the private flight carrying the former monarch landed in northwestern Spain. Juan Carlos did not speak to the media and first headed to the town of Sanxenxo, where a regatta will take place from Friday featuring the ‘Bribón’, a yacht with which he won the world title in 2017.

He will then travel to Madrid on Monday to visit his son, current king Felipe VI, his wife Sofia and other members of his family before leaving ‘the same day’ back to Abu Dhabi ‘where he has established his permanent and stable residence’, the palace said. It was reported earlier this week that Felipe VI had agreed to meet his disgraced father on his visit to Madrid [see below].

According to Spanish media, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government strongly opposed any suggestion that Juan Carlos be allowed to stay overnight at the royal residence, Zarzuela Palace.

The left-wing Podemos group, the socialist-led government’s junior coalition partner, expressed outrage over his visit.

‘Anyone who returned to our country with the history of King Juan Carlos I would be arrested as soon as they crossed the border and brought to justice. Justice is not the same for everyone. The monarchy is an institution designed to commit crime,’ it tweeted.

Original report below:

Spain’s king Felipe VI has reportedly agreed to meet his father, former king Juan Carlos I and currently still in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi, if he is visiting Madrid.

Felipe ascended the throne in 2014 with the aim of restoring the monarchy’s prestige after his father abdicated against a backdrop of scandals over his finances and love life.

According to Spanish media, Felipe agreed to a Madrid meeting during a telephone call with his father at the weekend. 

The current king was visiting Abu Dhabi to pay his respects to the former Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and new President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed, on the death of his half-brother Chalifa bin Zayed, who died on Friday at the age of 73 after being president for many years. Felipe did not stay on to meet with his father in Abu Dhabi, instead agreeing by phone to meet him when he visits Madrid.

A key figure in Spain’s transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Juan Carlos I was the target of three separate probes over his financial dealings.

One of them involved possible illegal commissions linked to a high-speed rail project in Saudi Arabia that was awarded to a Spanish consortium in 2011.

The 84-year-old former monarch left Spain for the United Arab Emirates and went into exile in August 2020, following the scandals and allegations of financial impropriety.

Spanish prosecutors shelved all the investigations in March but Juan Carlos announced shortly after that he would continue to live in the United Arab Emirates, and visit Spain frequently.

No date was given for the former Spanish king’s first trip to his homeland since he left in 2020.

Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo reported on Friday that Juan Carlos was displeased because his son only wanted to allow a short visit to the royal residence Zarzuela near Madrid without an overnight stay.

Felipe, like the left-wing government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, is keen to avoid damaging the royal family by getting too close to Juan Carlos.

According to a survey carried out about six months ago, a narrow majority of Spaniards (53%) are convinced that the monarchy is an outdated institution that should be abolished.

Felipe VI
The King of Spain Felipe VI upon his arrival in Abu Dhabi (Casa Real.

Click here for all our reports on the Spanish Monarchy

ALSO READ: Juan Carlos I to remain in Abu Dhabi but will visit Spain ‘frequently’

ALSO READ: Spain’s prosecutors drop investigations into finances of former king Juan Carlos.

ALSO READ: Swiss prosecutors close corruption probe against Spain’s former king Juan Carlos.

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