Juan Carlos
Weeks after he was linked to an inquiry into alleged corruption, Spain's former King Juan Carlos has left the country. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos, has announced he is abandoning his country amid a Spanish court investigation into a lucrative business contract to build high-speed railways in Saudi Arabia and a separate money laundering and tax evasion probe in Switzerland.

In a letter released by the royal household and addressed to King Felipe VI, his son and Spain’s current monarch, Juan Carlos said that his decision to leave amid the multiple inquiries was taken “with the same eagerness to serve Spain that inspired my reign”.


The Supreme Court of Spain has begun investigations into allegations of the involvement of Juan Carlos in the contract to build the 453-kilometre-long Mecca–Medina high-speed railway in Saudi Arabia.

No information is yet available on the date and destination of the former king’s departure.

The court prosecutor’s office says it aims to establish the ex-king’s connection with the project after his abdication in June 2014. At that point he lost his immunity from prosecution.

Spanish firms won a €6.7bn (£6bn) deal to build the Haramain rail link. The probe involves Swiss banks too.

Spanish anti-corruption officials suspect that the king kept some undeclared funds in Switzerland, and a Swiss investigation is under way. However, those officials are awaiting documentation from Swiss authorities, Spain’s La Vanguardia news website reports.

“This investigation focuses, precisely, on establishing or discarding the criminal relevance of deeds that happened after June 2014,” the Spanish prosecutor’s office said.

There has been no comment so far from the ex-king himself or his lawyers.

In March King Felipe VI renounced his inheritance from his father Juan Carlos, who is now 82.

An economic crimes specialist, Juan Ignacio Campos, heads the new investigation, aided by three other Supreme Court prosecutors.

Preliminary inquiries were launched in September 2018, after recordings emerged of the king’s ex-mistress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. Reports say she mentioned a commission in connection with the Saudi contract.

Juan Carlos ascended the throne in 1975 on the death of Gen Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator who ruled Spain for 36 years.

Juan Carlos was widely admired for steering Spain to democracy during a difficult period. But towards the end of his 39-year reign he drew criticism.

There was a lavish elephant hunting trip to Botswana in 2012, then a corruption scandal involving his youngest daughter, Cristina, and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, which led to calls for him to step aside.