The scandal-ridden trajectory of Spain’s Juan Carlos I took an unexpected turn on Monday as the former king announced that he was leaving the country to protect the image of the monarchy, now embodied by his son, Felipe VI. According to news reports, the king emeritus will establish his place of residence in the Dominican Republic.

Under judicial scrutiny for his alleged role in a scheme involving payments from Saudi Arabia and a bank account in Switzerland, Juan Carlos did not explicitly cite his legal troubles in a farewell letter to his son made public on Monday afternoon, referring to them rather as “personal matters.”

Already an unpopular figure in Catalonia, Juan Carlos’ decision to leave Spain sparked renewed criticism against the crown, paired with reproaches to the Spanish government for not doing enough to prevent the former king from “fleeing justice.”

Monumental scandal

“It’s a monumental scandal” said Catalan presidentQuim Torra via Twitter, who accused the Socialists and Podemos, the two parties forming a left-wing coalition government, of “knowing [Juan Carlos’] flight plans for weeks and not doing anything to stop him.”

He also proposed holding a parliamentary session on former king Juan Carlos’ departure from Spain and the collaboration of the Spanish government.

Fraud to justice

Unidas Podemos leader and Spanish vice president Pablo Iglesias has denied any knowledge of the former king’s plans, implying that the Socialist party acted secretly, and said “a democratic government can’t look elsewhere” when faced with what he described as a “fraud to justice.”

Spanish president Pedro Sánchez spoke on Tuesday to give his support to the monarchy, saying king Felipe VI has “distanced himself” from Juan Carlos I, and stressed that the courts are looking into “a person, not an institution”. He did not clarify whether he collaborated with former king Juan Carlos to plan his departure, arguing that such information is “confidential”.

The vice president of the Catalan government, Pere Aragonès, compared the situation of Juan Carlos with that of the Catalan politicians who went into exile to avoid incarceration for their role in the 2017 independence bid: “While some go into exile for defending democracy and calling a referendum, others do it because they’re corrupt, like Juan Carlos I.”

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