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Former King of Spain To Leave The Country Amid Investigation Into Financial Scandals

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

Spain's former King Juan Carlos is reported to have left Spain amid investigations by Spanish and Swiss prosecutors into his personal bank accounts. As Lucia Benavides reports, some Spaniards are accusing the king of running away to avoid legal prosecution.

LUCIA BENAVIDES, BYLINE: Former King Juan Carlos was once seen as the father of Spanish democracy. Chosen by the dictator Francisco Franco to carry on his legacy, King Juan Carlos instead led Spain to democratic rule after ascending the throne in 1975. Thirty-nine years later, he abdicated the throne amid a series of personal and financial scandals, including tax evasion, extramarital affairs and elephant hunting expeditions in the middle of a financial crisis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JUAN CARLOS: (Speaking Spanish).

BENAVIDES: His public apology in 2012 did nothing to erase a photo of him standing in front of an elephant's corpse, rifle in hand. And news of other scandals continued even after he handed the throne to his son, King Felipe. This June, Spain's Supreme Court opened an investigation into Juan Carlos' private Swiss bank account, where he allegedly hid $100 million given to him by the then-king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, in 2008. Earlier this year, these accusations led King Felipe to renounce his father's inheritance and strip the former king of his annual stipend of more than $200,000.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking Spanish).

BENAVIDES: News of the former king leaving the country was the talk of Spain on Monday evening after a letter written from the former monarch to the present king was released. In the note, Juan Carlos said he was leaving to protect his legacy and personal dignity. He did not say if he was leaving permanently or where he was going. The former king's lawyer says Juan Carlos is still at the disposal of Spanish courts, but his critics accuse him of fleeing the country to avoid prosecution.

For NPR News, I'm Lucia Benavides in Barcelona.

(SOUNDBITE OF STILL CORNERS SONG, "THE TRIP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.