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Spain's former king Juan Carlos confirmed to be in UAE

Former monarch has been in the Emirates since 3 August, royal palace confirms, putting an end to speculation over his whereabouts
Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975 after the death of General Francisco Franco.
Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975 after the death of General Francisco Franco (AFP/File photo)

Spain's former king Juan Carlos has been living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 3 August, the royal palace confirmed on Monday, putting an end to speculation over the 82-year-old's whereabouts.

Juan Carlos said earlier this month that he would leave Spain weeks after he was linked to a corruption investigation.

"King Juan Carlos has told the royal household that he went to the Emirates on Aug. 3, and he remains there now," a spokesman said, giving no more details.

Spanish daily ABC reported two weeks ago that a private plane en route from Paris to Abu Dhabi stopped off in the northwestern Spanish city of Vigo on Monday morning to pick up Juan Carlos, four security guards and one other person.

Upon arrival at Abu Dhabi's Al Bateen airport, the king and his entourage were flown by helicopter to the government-owned Emirates Palace hotel, ABC said.

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The once-popular king abdicated in favour of his son Felipe in 2014 after a tax fraud case involving members of the royal family. He has also faced sharp criticism after an elephant hunting trip at a time when Spain was dealing with a deep recession.

Despite taking a step back from public life after leaving the throne, the former king has been plagued with controversy, culminating with the Supreme Court of Spain opening a preliminary investigation into his involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia.

Switzerland's La Tribune de Geneve newspaper reported Juan Carlos had received $100m from the late Saudi King Abdullah. Switzerland has also opened an investigation.

The former monarch is not formally under investigation and his lawyer has said he remains at the Spanish prosecutor's disposal.

While king, Juan Carlos benefited from full judicial immunity but can be prosecuted for any crime committed since he abdicated.

Justice Minister Juan Carlos Campo said he believes the former king would return to Spain to respond to judges if required.

"I'm convinced that when justice calls him, he will attend," Campo said.