Spain’s King demands model behavior amid father’s scandal

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spanish King Felipe VI used his traditional Christmas Eve speech to make a renewed call for Spain’s leaders to demonstrate exemplary behavior, a message he delivered Thursday night amid a financial scandal centering on his father — the country’s previous monarch.

Felipe said in a televised address that citizens demand “principles that apply to everyone, without exception, and that are above any other considerations, including personal or family (bonds).”

The message was widely interpreted as a rebuke to the alleged financial improprieties that are threatening to tarnish the once immaculate reputation of King Emeritus Juan Carlos I.

Juan Carlos stunned Spain in August when he moved to the United Arab Emirates after it emerged that prosecutors in Spain and Switzerland were investigating him for possible financial wrongdoing.

Juan Carlos status as Spain’s former head of state means he is immune from prosecution for any offense committed during his 1975-2014 reign. Nevertheless, Spain’s Supreme Court this year began investigating him after reports of a Swiss probe into the payment of tens of millions of euros (dollars) in kickbacks from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah in 2008.

The ex-king also the target of another probe into the alleged use by him, former Queen Sofia and other members of the royal family of credit cards linked to foreign accounts not in their names.

Earlier this month, his lawyer said Juan Carlos had paid tax authorities nearly 680,000 euros ($821,000) following a voluntary declaration of previously undisclosed income.

Juan Carlos has not been charged with any crime, and his lawyers have said he would return to Spain immediately, if required for legal reasons.

Felipe, who became king after his father’s 2014 abdication, has tried to distance himself from Juan Carlos. In March, the Spanish monarch renounced any future personal inheritance he night receive from his father. He also stripped Juan Carlos of his annual stipend, which in 2018 was 194,232 euros ($216,000).

The scandal nevertheless has encouraged some left-wing parties to revive calls to change Spain’s form of government from a constitutional monarchy to republican. The party of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, however, is firmly backing Felipe, along with the conservative opposition.

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AP writer Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed.

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