MADRID – Spain’s former king Juan Carlos I has been in the United Arab Emirates since Aug. 3, the royal household confirmed in a statement on Monday, putting an end to weeks of speculation.
The whereabouts of the former monarch had been undisclosed since he announced on Aug. 3 that he would abandon the country amid a growing scandal alleging his involvement in opaque financial dealings linked to a rail contract with Saudi Arabia.
The 82-year-old 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. He oversaw Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in the 1970s.
Spain’s royal household said in a statement that Juan Carlos had informed the royal family that he had traveled to the UAE on Aug. 3, “where he currently remains.”
Spanish and foreign press were abuzz with conflicting rumors claiming Juan Carlos went to Portugal or the Dominican Republic following the former king’s shock announcement earlier this month.
Days after he departed from the country he once ruled, images captured by Spanish media purportedly showed Juan Carlos at the airport in Abu Dhabi.
The royal household, the Spanish government and Juan Carlos’ lawyer had declined to confirm the whereabouts of the emeritus king.
In his Aug. 3 statement, Juan Carlos said he was leaving Spain “in the face of the public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are generating.”
He said he remained at the disposition of Spain’s justice system.
Swiss prosecutors have confirmed a probe into whether an alleged gift of $100 million made in 2008 by Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah to Juan Carlos had been a kickback related to a Spanish consortium’s multi-billion-dollar contract to build a high-speed railway between the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina.
Prosecutors at Spain’s Supreme Court have also launched a probe into the allegedly opaque financial dealings.
Having been nominated by dictator Francisco Franco several years earlier, Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975. But rather than continuing the politics of the regime after Franco’s death, the then-king backed the democratization of Spain and the creation of a new constitution.
Toward the end of his reign, however, his popularity had tumbled and he was forced to apologize to the public in 2012 when it emerged he had traveled to Botswana to hunt elephants while Spain was in the depths of an economic crisis.