The idea of a king going into exile may sound like something out a period drama, but it's all part of an ongoing modern day scandal in the Spanish royal family. Juan Carlos I, the 82-year-old former king of Spain, has decided to leave the country in order to make it easier for his son, the reigning King Felipe VI, to rule, according to a letter posted to the Spanish royal family's website. It is not yet clear where the former monarch intends to go.
The announcement of Juan Carlos's self-imposed exile comes on the heels of months of building controversy about the royal's alleged financial misdeeds. In June, Spain’s Supreme Court began an investigation into Juan Carlos's role in a multibillion-dollar deal in which a consortium including Spanish companies was awarded the contract to build a high-speed rail line in Saudi Arabia. According to the Guardian, documents from prosecutors allege that while he was King, Juan Carlos received a $100 million "donation" from the king of Saudi Arabia which was then placed in an offshore account.
The former Spanish king, who rose to power in 1975 after the fall of Francisco Franco's dictatorial regime, was long credited for his role in leading the country into a democracy, but his popularity waned significantly over the course of his nearly four decades of on the throne. In the early 2010s Juan Carlos was criticized for going on an expensive hunting expedition to Botswana while Spain was enduring an economic recession and high unemployment. The king apologized for the decision, and in 2014 formally abdicated to his son King Felipe VI, reportedly saying at the time that, "I do not want my son to wither waiting like Prince Charles."
This March, with rumblings about Juan Carlos's alleged financial corruption surfacing, Felipe announced that he was canceling his father's annual government-funded stipend, which totaled approximately €194,000 (around $230,000 US) in 2018, and renounced his personal inheritance from his father.
"The King wishes to emphasize the historical importance that his father's reign represents, his legacy and his political and institutional work for Spain and democracy," a press release from the Spanish Royal Household, which was issued following Juan Carlos's decision to go into exile, reads. "At the same time he wants to reaffirm the principles and values on which [Spain's democracy] is based."
According to a statement by Juan Carlos' lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco, the former ruler will remain available to answer questions from prosecutors.
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