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MADRID: Spain’s former king Juan Carlos said he will stay in Abu Dhabi despite the closure of investigations into his financial dealings that led to his self-imposed exile in the UAE, the Spanish royal family announced on Monday.

“For now, I prefer for personal reasons which concern nobody but myself, to continue residing in a permanent and stable manner in Abu Dhabi,” Juan Carlos wrote to his son, Spain’s reigning monarch Felipe VI, in a letter published by the royal family.

“It seems timely to me to consider my return to Spain, but not immediately,” Juan Carlos added, five days after Spain’s public prosecutor published its decision to drop all three investigations against him.

Juan Carlos went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in 2020 amid the probes, which included allegations of possible illegal commissions linked to a high-speed rail project in Saudi Arabia that was awarded to a Spanish consortium in 2011.

While he was never charged with any crime, the probes tainted his reputation and that of the Spanish monarchy.

Felipe has taken steps to distance himself from his father, who abdicated from the Spanish throne in 2014.

In Abu Dhabi, Juan Carlos said he “found peace, in particular for this period of my life even though, naturally, I will frequently come back to Spain”.

He added that his decision to move to the Emirati capital was to allow his son to carry out his functions more easily.

Juan Carlos was previously celebrated as a key figure in Spain’s transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 before his reputation was tarnished.

“I am aware of the consequences of past events in my private life on public opinion and I sincerely regret them,” he wrote in the letter.

Felipe “respects and understands the wish” of his father, the royal family said in a statement containing the letter.

Royal troubles

The end of the investigations against Juan Carlos had potentially paved the way for the former monarch to return to Spain.

“The investigation… does not, in the Prosecutor’s opinion, allow for any criminal action to be brought against His Majesty Juan Carlos,” said a legal document released by the public prosecutor’s office last week.

All three probes were shelved for reasons including “the lack of incriminating evidence, the statute of limitations, the inviolability of the head of state and tax regularisation” payments he made in recent years.

Swiss prosecutors had also opened an investigation into the Saudi rail contract in 2018 but dropped the case in December for lack of evidence.

The king had in 2012 given the bulk of this money to his former mistress, German businesswoman Corinna Larsen.

A second investigation began at the end of 2020, when Spanish prosecutors said they were looking into his possible undeclared use of credit cards linked to accounts not registered to his name.

The alleged activities constituted a possible money-laundering offence and were believed to have taken place after 2014 when Juan Carlos lost his immunity following abdication.

Around the same time, a third probe was opened into the alleged existence of a trust fund linked to Juan Carlos in the island of Jersey, a British protectorate off northern France that is considered a tax haven.


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