Former King Juan Carlos Reunites with Son King Felipe for First Time Since Fleeing Spain Due to Scandal

·4 min read
King Felipe VI of Spain and King Juan Carlos
King Felipe VI of Spain and King Juan Carlos

Carlos R. Alvarez/WireImage King Felipe VI of Spain and King Juan Carlos in 2018

After nearly two years in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi, Spain's former King Juan Carlos reunited with his family in Spain on Monday.

During his 12-hour private visit to Zarzuela Palace in Madrid, the 84-year-old former monarch, who fled Spain amid allegations of tax fraud and money laundering in 2020, had a "long conversation" with his son, the current King Felipe VI, and had lunch with several royal family members, including his wife Queen Sofia, 83.

Spain's royal palace said in a statement following Juan Carlos' departure, "His Majesty The King and Don Juan Carlos have had a long conversation about family issues as well as about different events and their consequences on Spanish society since the King's father decided to move to Abu Dhabi on August 3, 2020."

The visit marked the first time Juan Carlos has seen his family since he left Spain under a cloud of scandal. Juan Carlos, who was once revered for his role in Spain's transition to democracy, abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son, who has since distanced himself from his father.

Following Juan Carlos' conversation with his son, the two men joined a family lunch at the palace. While Juan Carlos' wife sat with the family, she was unable to join in on the lunch as she recently tested positive for COVID-19 following a visit to Miami and was wearing a mask.

TOPSHOT - Spain's former King Juan Carlos I waves from his "Bribon" boat, as he attends the regatta of the InterRias trophy of 6M Spanish Cup, in the Galician town of Sanxenxo, northwestern Spain, on May 21, 2022. - Spain's former king returned to the country on May 19, 2022 for his first visit since he left nearly two years ago following a string of financial scandals. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP) (Photo by BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Spain's former King Juan Carlos I waves from his "Bribon" boat, as he attends the regatta of the InterRias trophy of 6M Spanish Cup, in the Galician town of Sanxenxo, northwestern Spain, on May 21, 2022. - Spain's former king returned to the country on May 19, 2022 for his first visit since he left nearly two years ago following a string of financial scandals. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP) (Photo by BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Images)

BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Spain's former King Juan Carlos I waves as he arrives at the nautical club in the Galician town of Sanxenxo on May 20

Later that afternoon, Juan Carlos embarked on his return trip to Abu Dhabi.

The royal palace referred to a letter Juan Carlos wrote his son in March upon his departure.

"As was made public, in his letter to S.M. the King of March 5, Don Juan Carlos primarily states his wish to establish his place of stable and permanent residence in Abu Dhabi for personal reasons; and secondly, his decision to organize his personal life and his place of residence in areas of a private nature, both during his visits and if he were to reside in Spain again in the future, in order to continue enjoying the greatest possible privacy," the statement read.

King Juan Carlos Queen Sofia of Spain
King Juan Carlos Queen Sofia of Spain

Carlos R. Alvarez/WireImage Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos in 2017

Juan Carlos arrived in Spain last week and attended a sailing race in Sanxenxo before traveling to Madrid for a brief visit with his family.

His brief return comes two months after Spain's Public Prosecutor's Office announced that it dropped three separate investigations into the former King's financial affairs, citing insufficient evidence, the statute of limitations, and immunity he held while serving as head of state.

A similar investigation opened by Swiss authorities concerning "aggravated money laundering" was dropped in Geneva in December for the same reasons.

In making its announcement, the Spanish prosecutor stressed its decision did not mean absolution.

TOPSHOT - Spain's former King Juan Carlos I waves from his "Bribon" boat, as he attends the regatta of the InterRias trophy of 6M Spanish Cup, in the Galician town of Sanxenxo, northwestern Spain, on May 21, 2022. - Spain's former king returned to the country on May 19, 2022 for his first visit since he left nearly two years ago following a string of financial scandals. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP) (Photo by BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Spain's former King Juan Carlos I waves from his "Bribon" boat, as he attends the regatta of the InterRias trophy of 6M Spanish Cup, in the Galician town of Sanxenxo, northwestern Spain, on May 21, 2022. - Spain's former king returned to the country on May 19, 2022 for his first visit since he left nearly two years ago following a string of financial scandals. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP) (Photo by BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Images)

BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Juan Carlos on May 21

"The public prosecutor wishes to make it clear that, despite the investigation, no criminal action can be taken against His Majesty Juan Carlos de Borbón for the reasons outlined in the decree – basically the lack of incriminating evidence, the statute of limitations, the inviolability of the head of state, and tax regularisation," the Public Prosecutor's Office said in a statement read, according to The Guardian.

The former monarch's visit wasn't without controversy. Government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said the ex-monarch "missed an opportunity" to "provide explanations and ask for forgiveness."

Spain's former King Juan Carlos I sits in a car after landing by a private jet at the Peinador airport in Vigo, Pontevedra, on May 19, 2022, before heading to the northwestern resort of Sanxenxo to attend a three-day regatta. - After nearly two years in exile in the United Arab Emirates following a string of financial scandals, Spain's former king makes his first trip home on May 19, 2022, on a brief visit that has sparked widespread criticism. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP) (Photo by BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Images)
Spain's former King Juan Carlos I sits in a car after landing by a private jet at the Peinador airport in Vigo, Pontevedra, on May 19, 2022, before heading to the northwestern resort of Sanxenxo to attend a three-day regatta. - After nearly two years in exile in the United Arab Emirates following a string of financial scandals, Spain's former king makes his first trip home on May 19, 2022, on a brief visit that has sparked widespread criticism. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP) (Photo by BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Images)

BRAIS LORENZO/AFP via Getty Juan Carlos on May 19

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"Without a doubt, he has lost the opportunity that Spanish society deserves, but also democracy. I think I should have taken advantage of this visit, this presence in our country, to account for those actions that we have known and are not compatible with the exemplary nature and transparency that is required of an institution such as the Casa del Rey," said Rodriguez.

Juan Carlos' visit was far from discreet. He received extensive media coverage during his stay in the town of Pontevedra amid the regatta. There was also a demonstration of several hundred people in Madrid on Sunday protesting his visit.

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