A few days later, a clue came. A photograph released by the NIUS media group showed a man resembling Juan Carlos getting off a plane wearing a face mask.
ABC newspaper filled in the details, reporting that he had flown in a private plane to Abu Dhabi and was staying at the government-owned Emirates Palace hotel, where a suite can cost up to € 11,000 (£ 10,000 ) by night.
A spokesman for the Spanish royal household said on Monday that the former king “told the royal household to communicate that on August 3 he had visited the United Arab Emirates and that is where he was. currently finds ”.
The household declined to say whether he was in Abu Dhabi or to answer questions about the length of his stay in the UAE.
A cloud of allegations has swirled around Juan Carlos in recent years, undermining the monarchy’s fragile grip on power and denting the popularity of a leader who played a central role in restoring democracy to Spain after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.
Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014, two years after it emerged he had flown on an elephant hunting trip to Botswana as Spain grappled with devastation caused by the financial crisis in 2008.
King Felipe stripped his father of his annual allowance in March and gave up his personal inheritance after reporting he was set to receive millions of euros from a secret offshore fund linked to Saudi Arabia.
The Spanish Supreme Court opened an investigation three months later into the former king’s role in a deal in which a Spanish consortium won a € 6.7bn (£ 5.9bn) contract for the construction of a high-speed rail line between the Saudi cities of Medina and Mecca.
As pressure grew to take action to protect the reputation of the monarchy, the Spanish royal household released a letter that Juan Carlos sent to Felipe, in which he said he would “move, at that time, outside Spain ”given the“ public repercussions that certain events in my private life have generated ”.