Spain's ex-king says his exit temporary

Speculation over the whereabouts of former monarch Juan Carlos is gripping Spanish media.
Speculation over the whereabouts of former monarch Juan Carlos is gripping Spanish media.

Former king Juan Carlos's sudden exit is only temporary, he told friends from aboard a jet carrying him away from Spain, La Vanguardia newspaper reports, as confusion mounted over the ex-monarch's plans.

"I'm not on holiday and I'm not abandoning Spain. This is just a parenthesis," he said in a message to friends, according to the newspaper.

Dogged by allegations of corruption, Juan Carlos decided to leave Spain to prevent his personal affairs from overshadowing his son King Felipe's reign, the royal palace said on Monday, stunning Spaniards.

But, with no official confirmation of the 82-year-old's whereabouts, speculation remains rife. El Pais, also reporting that the former king told friends his departure would be temporary, added: "Others, in the government, think it won't be that easy."

In recent months, Swiss and Spanish prosecutors began investigating allegations of bribes relating to a high-speed rail contract.

While Juan Carlos is not formally under investigation several details of the probes were leaked to the press, piling on the pressure for the king to take action to protect the monarchy.

Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975 after the death of General Francisco Franco and was widely respected for his role in helping guide Spain from dictatorship to democracy, but recent scandals have tarnished his image.

News of the former monarch's exit is continuing to make huge waves at home.

An online petition to change the name of Madrid's King Juan Carlos university had racked up more than 39,000 signatures on Wednesday morning.

"Corruption cases surrounding the Royal Family keep appearing, torpedoing the image of a monarchy that had been presented to us as 'wholesome' and 'humble'" the petition read.

Citing anonymous sources, El Pais and El Confidencial say Juan Carlos, who his keeping his title of King Emeritus, is in Portugal, where he spent part of his youth.

La Vanguardia and ABC newspapers report he travelled by car to Portugal before flying to the Dominican Republic where he is staying as the guest of a wealthy family.

But Dominican authorities told Reuters the king's last stay in the country was between February 28 and March 2 and they had no information about a possible arrival.

A Royal Palace spokesman and a lawyer for Juan Carlos both said they had nothing to say.

Australian Associated Press