'Explanations of what?': former Spanish king ends 4-day trip from UAE

Political parties criticize Juan Carlos I for failing to address corruption scandals

Former king Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía on May 11, 2019 (by Casa de Su Majestad)
Former king Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía on May 11, 2019 (by Casa de Su Majestad) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

May 23, 2022 06:27 PM

After an absence of 658 days, Juan Carlos I, the former king of Spain, returned to the royal residency to have lunch with his son, King Felipe VI and other members of the Spanish royal family on Monday, rounding off a four-day trip from the UAE.

The ex-monarch has faced renewed criticism on his return to Spain for failing to address the corruption scandals which prompted him to leave in August 2020.

"Explanations of what?" was his response to questions from reporters on Sunday over the various legal cases that marked the end of his reign.

A flying visit for lunch in Madrid after a weekend attending sailing regattas in the Galician seaside resort of Sanxenxo garnered much attention from Spanish media, but the Spanish government expressed their dissatisfaction with the spectacle generated.

Felipe VI did not include his father's visit on his official agenda, indicating that the monarchy considers it a private matter only.

The format of the trip was agreed with the Spanish government over the course of three months, according to Spanish newspaper El País.

Juan Carlos plans to return to Spain next month for the Sailing World Cup. 

Political anger

Several political parties voiced their disapproval at the ex-king's reluctance to shed light on the corruption allegations.

Esquerra deputy secretary-general Marta Vilalta accused Juan Carlos of "laughing at Spanish citizens and Spain's weak democracy."

Their Catalan government partners Junts per Catalunya highlighted that the trip had taken place "with the approval" of the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and that the expressions of "discomfort" by some members of his government was just "a show of hypocrisy and cynicism."

The Spanish government, for their part, said that Juan Carlos had "missed an opportunity, which Spaniards had been waiting for, to give explanations and apologize."

Tax fraud cases dropped

Actions from the public prosecutor's office and tax agency in recent months have smoothed the way for the former monarch's return.

Spain’s Supreme Court had been looking into the details surrounding a €100 million commission he received from Saudi Arabia for the awarding of contracts to companies to build a high-speed train line to Mecca. 

Another investigation now closed relates to how his family had expenses paid by a Mexican businessman, while prosecutors were also scrutinizing secret bank accounts in Switzerland.

The public ministry admitted that the former head of state defrauded the Spanish tax agency, but said that the crimes would be inviolable according to the Constitution, and thus dropped all cases against the former monarch. 

In the summer of 2020, Juan Carlos made the decision to flee Spain as corruption scandals mounted, in order to protect the image of the monarchy, now led by his son, Felipe VI. 

In February 2021, it was revealed that the former king of Spain had paid the tax office €4.396m for previously undeclared income relating to flights on a private jet.

Listen to our Filling the Sink podcast episode from March 2021 to hear more about the rise and fall of the former king, Juan Carlos.