Spain‘s frail-looking runaway former king Juan Carlos has been pictured for only the second time in five months at his Middle East hideaway.
The ex-monarch, who turns 83 tomorrow, had to be helped to walk by two bodyguards at a pleasure port in Abu Dhabi.
The photo, said to have been taken by Spanish tourists and published by Spanish TV station Telecinco, is bound to fuel new concerns about his state of health.
It is the first to emerge of Juan Carlos since he was pictured arriving in Abu Dhabi at the start of August following a shock departure from Spain after Swiss prosecutors opened an investigation into bank accounts he allegedly held in tax havens.
He checked into a £10,000-a-night presidential suite at the seven-star Emirates Palace following his arrival.
Spain’s frail-looking runaway former king Juan Carlos has been pictured for only the second time in five months at his Middle East hideaway
The possibility he would return to Madrid for Christmas had polarised the political debate in Spain over the last few weeks before it was ruled out by Juan Carlos himself.
He attributed his decision to the coronavirus pandemic and the fact he was a high-risk person because of his age.
Reports at the time, refused by Spain’s Royal Household, said he had been admitted to a private clinic in Abu Dhabi after testing positive for coronavirus.
Juan Carlos is facing three separate criminal probes in Spain.
One is related to the use of credit cards linked to foreign accounts after his June 2014 abdication when he lost his constitutional protection against prosecution as a serving monarch.
Prosecutors are trying to establish if the scandal-hit former king accessed funds deposited in accounts held by a Mexican businessman and a Spanish Air Force official.
Spain has also launched its own investigation based in part on information shared by Switzerland about cash Juan Carlos allegedly received as part of his involvement in a high-speed Saudi Arabia rail contract.
Last month the ex-monarch’s lawyer announced he had paid more than POUNDS 600,000 in back taxes with interest and surcharges for the years since his abdication.
Juan Carlos, who is married to Queen Sofia, 81, left Spain in August after it was claimed he allegedly received millions of euros from Saudi Arabia ‘s late King Abdullah. Pictured, Juan Carlos and Sofia in 2004
Spanish authorities responded by saying they were analysing the tax payments to see if they were ‘spontaneous, truthful and complete.’
Juan Carlos’ shock departure from Spain at the start of August led to an intense questioning of the country’s monarchy led by its left-wing vice-president Pablo Iglesias.
Several interviews by the former king’s ex-mistress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, now living in the UK, have not helped.
She was implicated in the scandal surrounding Juan Carlos’ rule after it emerged he had given her a gift of EUROS 65 million.
The 56-year-old blonde has claimed he gave her the cash gift because he was ‘adamant about taking care of her.’
She also insisted in a TV interview last year Juan Carlos was the ‘architect of his own problems’ and described his Middle East exile as the ‘ultimate defeat.’
In 2014, King Juan swiftly abdicated in favour of his son Felipe (pictured with his wife Letizia in January)
Spain’s current king, Juan Carlos’ son Felipe VI, made a veiled dig at his exiled father and the scandals surrounding his family in his Christmas speech.
He said in a televised address ‘ethics are above family ties.’
The new photo of Juan Carlos was taken on December 29 on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, home to the Yas Marina Circuit which is the venue for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Juan Carlos, in his letter to Spain’s current king Felipe VI announcing his decision to leave his homeland, wrote ‘Guided by my conviction I can offer the best service to Spaniards, its institutions and to you as King, I am communicating my decision to move away from Spain.
‘It’s a decision I am taking with deep feeling but with great serenity. I have been King of Spain for almost 40 years and during that whole time, I’ve always wanted the best for Spain and for the Crown.’
He signed off the letter: ‘With affection as always, your father.’
It later emerged he had already left Spain by the time the letter was released by the Royal Household.
His departure sparked mixed reactions, with monarchists and right-wing politicians accusing the government of forcing him into exile and critics of the former king accusing him of an amateur attempt to protect himself and his son from the corruption scandals threatening the future of Spain’s dwindling royal family.
Who is Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos I?
Juan Carlos I reigned as king of Spain from November 1975 until his abdication in June 2014
Juan Carlos I reigned as king of Spain from November 1975 until his abdication in June 2014.
He was a popular monarch for most of his four-decade reign who played a critical role in the country’s transition to democracy.
He is the grandson of Alfonso XIII, the last king of Spain before the abolition of the monarchy in 1931 and the subsequent declaration of the Second Spanish Republic.
Juan Carlos was born in Rome, Italy, on January 5, 1938, during his family’s exile. He came to Spain in 1947 to continue his studies and entered the Zaragoza military academy.
He completed his tertiary education at the University of Madrid and went on to marry Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark in Athens in 1962.
They went on to have two daughters and a son together: Elena, Cristina, and Felipe.
Juan Carlos first began periodically acting as Spain’s head of state in the summer of 1974. Fascist dictator Francisco Franco died in November the following year and Juan Carlos became king on 22 November 1975, two days after Franco’s death.
Juan Carlos was hailed for his role in Spain’s transition to democracy and reforms to dismantle the Francoist regime.
However the King and the monarchy’s reputation began to suffer after controversies surrounding his family arose.
In April 2012, Juan Carlos faced criticism for an elephant-hunting trip in Botswana during a time of financial crisis in Spain.
The public found out about the trip only after the King injured himself and a special aircraft was sent to bring him home.
Pictured left to right: Then-Princess Letizia , Prince Felipe, Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos pose for a photo in 2009
Spanish officials stated that the expenses of the trip were not paid by taxpayers or by the palace, but by Syrian businessman Mohamed Eyad Kayali.
Corruption scandals circling the royal family closed in when his daughter, Princess Cristina, was accused of tax fraud in 2014 and became the first Spanish royal to stand trial. She was later acquitted, but her husband was sentenced.
He abdicated in favour of his son, Prince Felipe, in 2014, and last year, Juan Carlos announced his decision to withdraw from public life, ending his remaining institutional functions and appearances from June 2019. Last August, he successfully underwent heart surgery in Madrid.
In June 2020, Spain’s supreme court prosecutor opened an investigation into Juan Carlos’ involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia that was granted to a group of Spanish companies in 2011.
King Felipe renounced his own inheritance and stripped his father of his palace allowance in March after reports the latter received $100 million from the late Saudi king and gave millions to a businesswoman.