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ROYAL FAMILY

Leaked text chat embarrasses scandal-hit Spanish royals

A leaked phone conversation between Spain's Queen Letizia and a businessman embroiled in a bank scandal set Twitter ablaze Wednesday, just as King Felipe VI attempts to revive the scandal-hit monarchy.

Leaked text chat embarrasses scandal-hit Spanish royals
Photo: AFP

In the text conversation, the queen pledges her support for Javier Lopez Madrid – a close friend of the king – and calls him her “yoga mate”.

The iMessage conversation, revealed by the online daily eldiario.es, dates back to October 2014. The businessman is among dozens accused of misusing bank funds for their personal use.

The scandal allegedly saw executives and board members at Caja Madrid and Bankia – the group whose near-collapse sparked an EU bailout of Spain's financial sector – use credit cards given out by the banks to spend some €12 million ($13 million) on themselves.

“I wrote to you when the story on the credit cards came out…,” Letizia wrote in her message, according to El Diario.

“We know who you are and you know who we are. We know each other, like each other, respect each other. To hell with the rest. Kisses yoga mate (miss you!!!)”

Lopez then thanked her. “In future I will take extra precautions, we live in a very difficult country and I will be even more aware of my conduct.” The king himself then joined the conversation, saying “We do indeed!”

The king has tried hard to clean up the royal family's image following a corruption scandal involving his sister that precipitated his father Juan Carlos's abdication in June 2014.

Last week, Princess Cristina gave evidence in a landmark corruption case centred on her husband's business dealings – the country's first royal to face criminal charges since the monarchy's 1975 restoration

The case has sullied the reputation of the monarchy and become a symbol of perceived corruption and greed among Spain's elites.  

Spanish netizens on Wednesday revelled in the royals' embarrassment over the leaked conversation.

“Spain is a very difficult country,” @ElPerricano tweeted above a photo of an old lady rummaging through rubbish juxtaposed to a shot of the royal family on a yacht.

The hashtag #CompiYogui – the term in Spanish used by Queen Letizia in her message of support and loosely translated as “yoga mate” – was the biggest trending topic on Twitter.

Many netizens jokingly used bears to illustrate their tweets in reference to the cartoon character Yogi Bear.

 

 

“#CompiYogui attacking public money,” @ulises_sevilla tweeted above a short segment of the scene of a bear attack in Oscar-winning film “The Revenant.”  

A spokesman for the royal palace, who refused to be named, told AFP the king and Lopez were no longer friends due to the businessman's judicial issues.    

“The king doesn't directly explicitly support him (Lopez),” he added when asked about the messages themselves.  

“It's different for the queen, who is clearer.”

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ROYAL FAMILY

‘Alone and bored’: A year after exile, legal woes haunt Spain’s ex-king

A year after Spain's former King Juan Carlos went into self-imposed exile in the face of mounting questions over his finances, he remains under a cloud of suspicion that complicates his return home.

'Alone and bored': A year after exile, legal woes haunt Spain's ex-king
Juan Carlos I's close ties with Gulf leaders have allowed him to live in opulent exile in Abu Dhabi for a year. Photo: KARIM SAHIB / AFP

He announced on August 3, 2020 he was moving abroad to prevent his personal affairs from undermining his son King Felipe VI’s reign and sullying the monarchy.

But his choice of new home — the United Arab Emirates, where some of his business affairs triggered the scandals that tainted his reputation in the first place — only raised Spaniards’ eyebrows further.

Juan Carlos has told his son that he would like to return to Spain “but he won’t come back without the approval” of the royal household, said Jose Apezarena, the author of several books on Felipe.

And the position of the royals is that “until his legal problems end, he should not return”, Apezarena told AFP.

The 83-year-old former king is the target of three separate investigations over his financial dealings, including those linked to a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia that was awarded to a Spanish consortium.

Prosecutors in Spain and Switzerland are looking into suspicions he received kickbacks for facilitating the deal.

The suspicions centre on $100 million (€85 million) that Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah allegedly deposited in 2008 into a Swiss bank account to which Juan Carlos had access.

The other two investigations concern the alleged existence of a trust fund in Jersey linked to Juan Carlos and the undeclared use of credit cards linked to accounts not registered in his name, a possible money-laundering offence.

‘Very bored’

Spanish monarchs have immunity during their reign but Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 following a series of health problems and embarrassing revelations about his personal life, leaving himself vulnerable to prosecution.

While he has not been charged with any crime, the probes have tainted his reputation as a leader of Spain’s democratic transition following the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Outside of the Royal Palace in central Madrid, opinions were divided.

“He is being judged without any evidence, he should be able to come home if that’s what he wants,” said Pura Fernandez, 46, a bank worker.

But delivery rider Angel Galan, 27, was less sympathetic.

“He may have done some great things for Spain but if he committed irregularities I am not sad that he is gone,” he said.

While in exile, Juan Carlos has twice settled tax debts with Spanish authorities for a total of more than €5 million.

But he has otherwise kept a low profile at the villa on the island of Nurai off the coast of Abu Dhabi where he now lives.

“He is alone and very bored,” said Apezarena.

Photo: KARIM SAHIB / AFP

‘Not normal’

When reports emerged in February that Juan Carlos was in poor heath, the former monarch told online Spanish daily OKDiario he was “well, exercising two hours daily” in his only comments to the media since moving abroad.

Abel Hernández, a journalist and expert on the monarchy, said he believes Juan Carlos will return to Spain by the end of the year.

“He has not been charged with anything and has regularised his situation with the tax office. It does not seem normal that he remains outside of the country,” Hernández told AFP.

The scandals swirling around Juan Carlos have provided ammunition for those wanting to abolish the monarchy.

The far-left party Podemos, which is the junior partner in Spain’s coalition government, has called for a parliamentary investigation into Juan Carlos’s wealth.

Felipe, meanwhile, has sought to distance himself from his father.

Last year the king renounced his inheritance from Juan Carlos, and stripped the ex-monarch of his palace allowance after new details of his allegedly shady dealings emerged.

Polls show support for the monarchy has inched up since Juan Carlos moved abroad although a survey published Sunday in conservative daily La Razon found 42.9 percent of Spaniards feel Juan Carlos’s legal woes were hurting Felipe’s reign.

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