Spain's former king mulls 2nd visit amid swirling debate

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Spain's former King Juan Carlos, 2nd left, waves from a support launch that will accompany the Bribon yacht during a 'regatta' race between yachtsin Sanxenxo, north western Spain, Friday, May 20, 2022. Spain's former King has returned to Spain for his first visit since leaving nearly two years ago amid a cloud of financial scandals.(AP Photo/Lalo R. Villar)

MADRID – Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos I, is planning to visit Spain again in June, the mayor of the northwestern town hosting the former monarch said Friday, signaling that the vigorous debate sparked by the former monarch's return is unlikely to fade soon.

Juan Carlos returned to the country on Thursday for his first visit since his abrupt departure nearly two years ago amid mounting financial scandals. Dozens of cheering supporters greeted the 84-year-old as he made his first public appearance on Friday in the town of Sanxenxo, where his yacht is taking part in a three-day regatta.

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The royal household said the former monarch would travel to Madrid on Monday to meet with his son, King Felipe VI, his wife Sofia and other members of his family, before returning to his “permanent and stable residence” in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

On Friday, Sanxenxo Mayor Telmo Martín said Juan Carlos was already planning a second visit to to the town next month. “He confirmed to me that he is going to attend the Sailing World Championship, which starts June 10th and runs to the 18th,” he told reporters.

The former monarch’s return to Spanish soil this week – which came after Spanish and Swiss prosecutors shelved investigations involving Juan Carlos’ finances – sparked days of debate across Spain.

Members of the country’s Socialist-led government called on Juan Carlos to address the allegations of financial wrongdoing that have long dogged him.

“The public would like to receive explanations for everything that has happened,” said Justice Minister Pilar Llop.

Spanish prosecutors didn’t find evidence to take the former monarch to court because much of the alleged misbehavior, involving millions of euros (dollars) in undeclared accounts, happened when Juan Carlos had legal immunity as Spain’s king. Other acts of potential fraud fell outside the statute of limitations.

Others hailed the former monarch, who helped steer Spain back to democracy following the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.

The mayor of Madrid, a member of the conservative opposition Popular Party, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, described the work carried out by Juan Carlos for Spain as “extraordinary.”

He added: “I have no problem acknowledging that work, saluting King Juan Carlos and welcoming his return.”

Juan Carlos was once one of Spain’s most respected public figures. But scandals involving Spain’s royal family began to mount in the later years of his reign, leading Juan Carlos to abdicate in 2014, ending a 39-year-long term as monarch.

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