Spain’s former king attended a regatta in the northwestern Galicia region Friday on a controversial first trip home after nearly two years in exile following a string of financial scandals.
Although prosecutors have closed their probes into Juan Carlos I’s affairs, revelations about the murky origins of his fortune have done irreparable damage to a figure once revered for his role in Spain’s democratic transition after decades of dictatorship.
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Pulling up to the sailing club in the resort town of Sanxenxo, the 84-year-old — who flew in from Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening — was greeted by dozens of well-wishers, and a crowd of journalists.
As he got out of the car wearing a white top, cream gilet and salmon slacks and began shaking hands with supporters, there were cries of “Long live the king!”
But there were also a few cries of dissent with one man shouting “scoundrel” — a possible reference to the financial scandals that prompted Juan Carlos to move to Abu Dhabi in self-imposed exile in August 2020.
Hobbling along with his cane and holding onto the arm of an aide, the ex-monarch beamed as he greeted the crew of his yacht, the “Bribon” — Spanish for “rascal”.
The six-metre (20-foot) racing yacht is the same vessel with which he and his crew won the world sailing title in 2017 and 2019.
It was unclear whether he would be joining them aboard for the race. He has not sailed for some three years, Spain’s RTVE public television said.
The former monarch will stay with a close friend in Sanxenxo until Monday when he travels to Madrid for a brief visit with his wife Sofia, his son King Felipe VI and other family members.
He will leave for Abu Dhabi later on Monday, the palace said.
News of the disgraced former king’s impending arrival sparked a backlash earlier this week.
“There is no longer any legal or judicial reason to stop the king emeritus from travelling to Spain but there are a wealth of ethical grounds that explain the commotion this has caused,” an El Pais editorial said on Thursday.
Also Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calvino said “there’s no doubt we need some explanations” while the hard-left Podemos, the junior partner in Spain’s coalition government, expressed outrage at the visit.
“Anyone returning to Spain with a record like king Juan Carlos I would be arrested and prosecuted as soon as they crossed the border” it tweeted.