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Spain’s ex-king Juan Carlos leaving country amid scandal tied to Saudi Arabia

In this file photo, taken on May 4, 2019, Spain’s former King Juan Carlos I (R) and Queen Sofia are seen arriving for the funeral ceremony of Jean d'Aviano, the grand duke of Luxembourg, in Luxembourg City. (By AFP)

Spain’s former king Juan Carlos has decided to leave the country, the palace has announced, in the middle of a scandal over his alleged acceptance of Saudi bribes and as he remains exposed to prosecution following abdication.

The royal palace said on Monday that Juan Carlos had informed his son, King Felipe, of his intention to leave in a letter.

Juan Carlos said in the letter that he wanted to enable King Felipe to rule untroubled “amid the public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are generating.”

“Guided by my desire to do what is best to serve the Spanish people, its institutions and you as king, I am informing you of my… decision to leave Spain at this time,” the statement quoted the former king as saying.

In June, Spain’s Supreme Court launched a probe into whether Carlos received millions of dollars in kickbacks from Saudi Arabia. Switzerland’s La Tribune de Geneve newspaper first reported that he had received 100 million dollars from the late Saudi King Abdullah over a high-speed rail contract.

According to the palace statement, King Felipe thanked Juan Carlos for his decision, underlining “the historic importance that his father’s reign represents” for democracy in Spain.

Juan Carlos abdicated in June 2014 after nearly four decades on the throne following a series of scandals, losing immunity from prosecution.

Meanwhile, some local media said the former monarch had already left Spain on Sunday.

There was no indication of where the once-popular king might end up, but Spain’s daily La Vanguardia reported on Tuesday that Juan Carlos had traveled to the Dominican Republic after departing his country on Sunday. It did not cite any sources.

Some Spaniards criticized the decision after the Monday announcement, saying the former king had to stay to face justice.

Juan Carlos’ lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco, said in a brief statement the former king would “remain at the disposal of the prosecutors’ office.”

However, Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, of the leftist Podemos Party, said Juan Carlos should have stayed in Spain.

“Juan Carlos de Borbon’s flight abroad is an act unworthy of a former head of state and it leaves the monarchy in a very compromised position,” Iglesias said in a post on Facebook on Monday.

Iglesias’ parliamentary group went even further and said there was no reason to continue to recognize a monarchy “lacking the minimum ethical values,” potentially opening a rife with its government partner, the Socialist Party, which defends the monarchy.

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