Spain’s disgraced former king Juan Carlos I arrived back in his homeland Monday on his fourth visit since fleeing into self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi in 2020 over a string of financial scandals.
The 85-year-old flew into Vigo airport in the northwestern Galicia region, holding onto the rails as he slowly descended the steps of the private jet, Spanish public television showed.
Wearing a pale blue shirt and a beige sleeveless jacket, the ex-monarch went directly to the seaside town of Sanxenxo where he is to attend a regatta in which his yacht “El Bribon” — “The Rascal” — is competing.
It is his third trip back to Spain this year following earlier visits in April and July, also to attend regattas in the town.
Coincidentally, his son King Felipe VI, who has made efforts to distance himself from his scandal-tainted father, will on Thursday visit an area just 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Sanxenxo.
The palace has not said whether the two will meet.
Juan Carlos, who was monarch between 1975 and 2014, was for decades revered for his role in steering Spain to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
But damaging revelations about his opulent lifestyle and murky fortune forced him to abdicate in 2014 in favour of his son.
He moved to Abu Dhabi on August 3, 2020 as investigators pursued three probes into his finances.
He first returned to Spain in May 2022 just after prosecutors shelved their investigations due to lack of evidence, the statute of limitations and his immunity while head of state, although they confirmed “fiscal irregularities” in his affairs.
The former king showed little discretion on that first visit, which drew huge media attention and irritated Spain’s left-wing government and also the palace, media reports said.
Since then, he has kept a much lower profile on visits, limiting himself to waving from inside a car without opening the window. (AFP)