Spaniards ask where Juan Carlos has gone after ex-king leaves country

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 9, 2019. Spain's King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophia watch Spain's Rafael Nadal and Austria's Dominic Thiem final match. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

MADRID/SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) – The whereabouts of former king Juan Carlos remained a mystery on Tuesday after he abruptly left Spain under a cloud of scandal, and the Dominican Republic, where several Spanish newspapers reported he was, said it had no registry of his arrival.

One Spanish media outlet speculated he was in Portugal.

The royal palace said on Monday that Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 over a previous scandal, was leaving the country so that his personal affairs would not overshadow his son King Felipe’s reign, in a statement that stunned Spaniards.

The palace did not say where the 82-year-old went, triggering intense speculation about his whereabouts.

The Migration Office in the Dominican capital Santo Domingo said the former king’s last trip to the Caribbean country was from Feb. 28 to March 2. The foreign ministry also said it had no information about a possible arrival of Juan Carlos.

Adding to the confusion, RTVE broadcaster, citing unnamed sources close to Juan Carlos, said the former monarch wanted to return to Spain soon and El Mundo quoted an anonymous person close to him saying he may come back in September.

Pressure had been building on Juan Carlos and Felipe to take action to protect the monarchy, after Spanish and Swiss prosecutors started examining allegations of bribes relating to a high-speed rail contract and reports of offshore accounts.

Juan Carlos is not formally under investigation in either country and so is not technically a fugitive.

Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975 after the death of General Francisco Franco and was widely respected for his role in helping guide Spain from dictatorship to democracy, but recent scandals have tarnished his image.

“I think he’s running away like a coward. He should admit what he has done and be up front,” said Madrid resident Paz Rodriguez.

Retiree Santiago Pradas was more understanding. “They’re not being fair. There are many politicians, many parties, who have stolen three times as much,” he said.

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