Speculation over the whereabouts of former Spanish monarch Juan Carlos gripped the nation yesterday, a day after the man who served as king for almost four decades announced he was leaving the country for an unspecified destination amid a growing financial scandal.
In a letter published on the royal family’s Web site on Monday, Juan Carlos told his son King Felipe VI he was moving outside Spain due to the “public repercussions of certain episodes of my past private life.”
Juan Carlos is the target of official investigations in Spain and Switzerland, which are looking into possible financial wrongdoing.
His bombshell announcement took most Spaniards by surprise. Neither the royal family nor the government disclosed where the former king was going.
Daily newspaper ABC yesterday reported that Juan Carlos left Spain on Sunday and flew via Porto, in neighboring Portugal, to the Dominican Republic. The daily La Vanguardia also said he was in the Caribbean country, but only temporarily.
However, El Confidencial newspaper reported that Juan Carlos could still be in Portugal, where he spent part of his childhood, or in France or Italy, where he has family and friends.
He assumed the throne in November 1975 as King Juan Carlos I, and is credited with helping Spain peacefully restore democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco that year.
However, marred by scandals in the later years of his reign, Juan Carlos in 2014 abdicated in favor of Felipe, losing the immunity from prosecution the Spanish Constitution grants to the head of state.
Spain’s king is the head of state, which is a mostly ceremonial role. Executive power lies with the elected parliamentary government.
In the wake of Juan Carlos’ announcement, some people called for the monarchy to be abolished. The leftist political party Unidas Podemos, the junior member of Spain’s coalition government, wants a public debate about creating a republic.
“There is no reason at all to keep supporting a monarchy which doesn’t possess minimum ethical standards,” the party said in a statement late on Monday.
However, the Socialist party, which leads the government under Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, has showed no willingness to follow that path and has declared its support for King Felipe.
Even so, Sanchez recently said he found the developments about Juan Carlos “disturbing.”
In downtown Madrid, opinions were divided.
“I think it is really bad that we let him go,” said Sara Fernandez, a 38-year-old insurance worker. “He should have to stay here, return the money and do prison time, like all Spaniards when you break the law.”
However, janitor Mar Verdugo, 55, urged caution.
“We are judging him without any evidence, so when there is a sentence we will see if he has done right or wrong,” Verdugo said.
Juan Carlos’ lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco Mans, said in an e-mailed statement that the former king had asked him to make clear that even though he will be outside Spain, he intends to be available to cooperate with the investigation.
A statement from Spain’s general prosecutor’s office in June said it was investigating whether Juan Carlos received millions of US dollars in kickbacks from Saudi Arabia during the construction of a high-speed railway there by a Spanish consortium.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut