Where is Spain’s scandal-hit ex-king?
PIC: AFP

Speculation over the whereabouts of former monarch Juan Carlos gripped Spain on Tuesday, a day after he announced he was leaving the country for an unspecified destination amid a growing financial scandal.

In a letter published on the royal family's website on Monday, Juan Carlos told his son King Felipe VI he was moving outside Spain due to the "public repercussions of certain episodes of my past private life." Juan Carlos is the target of official investigations in Spain and Switzerland, which are looking into possible financial wrongdoing.

Juan Carlos's bombshell announcement took most Spaniards by surprise. Neither the royal family nor the government disclosed where he was going.

Daily newspaper ABC reported Tuesday that Juan Carlos left Spain on Sunday and flew via Porto, in neighbouring Portugal, to the Dominican Republic. La Vanguardia also said he was in the Caribbean country, but only temporarily.

But El Confidencial newspaper said he could be in Portugal, where he spent part of his childhood, or in France or Italy, where he has family and friends.

The 82-year-old former king is credited with helping Spain peacefully restore democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

But marred by scandals in the later years of his reign, Juan Carlos in 2014 abdicated in favour of his son Felipe, losing the immunity from prosecution Spain's Constitution grants to the head of state.

In the wake of Juan Carlos's announcement, some people called for the monarchy to be abolished. The leftist political party Unidas Podemos, the junior member of Spain's coalition government, wants a public debate about creating a republic.

"There is no reason at all to keep supporting a monarchy which doesn't possess minimum ethical standards," the party said in a statement late Monday.

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