Human Interest

Spain’s PM says unaware of ex-king whereabout, rumors swirl in media

Madrid, Aug 4 (efe-epa).- Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday said he did not know the whereabouts of former king Juan Carlos I a day after he announced he would leave the country and live in exile amid a growing financial scandal.

Spain’s press was abuzz with conflicting stories suggesting the emeritus king, who oversaw the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in the 1970s, was either in Portugal or the Dominican Republic. There is no confirmation from the Spanish royal household as of yet.

In a shock announcement Monday, the royal family published a letter in which Juan Carlos informed his son, the current King of Spain Felipe VI, of his intention to leave the country “in the face of the public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are generating.”

He had recently been named in two probes, one in Switzerland and one in Spain, scrutinizing a high-speed rail deal with Saudi Arabia amid suspicions he received an alleged gift of $100 million from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah as a kick-back.

Having withheld comment Monday, Spain’s prime minister and Socialist Party leader Sánchez said he respected the decision from the former monarch, adding: “I have no information on his whereabouts.”

He said the meetings his government has with the royal family were of a confidential nature and offered a reserved defense of proceedings saying “institutions don’t judge (the monarchy), people do.”

By contrast the conservative Popular Party on Monday expressed its “absolute respect” for Juan Carlos’s decision and recalled the ex-king’s decisive role in the transition to democracy following the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

The leading figure of the left-wing Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, who serves as deputy prime minister in the Socialist-led coalition government, said Monday on Twitter that Juan Carlos’s “flight abroad” was unworthy of a former head of state and that he should respond in the Spanish courts to allegations of wrongdoing.

The 82-year-old Juan Carlos served as the Spanish head of state from 1975 until 2014, when he abdicated in favor of his son, Felipe VI, as his popularity shrank.

It is unclear how the former king’s decision to relocate abroad will affect his wife of 58 years, Queen Sofia. EFE-EPA

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