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Phone messages tie Spain's royal family to "black" credit card scandal

Text messages tie Spain's King and Queen to "black" credit card scandal
9 Mar 2016 – 6:17 PM EST

The king and queen of Spain, Felipe IV and his wife Letizia, sent messages of support to a friend snared in a bank scandal that shook Spain in 2014, according to the Spanish online paper eldiario.es.

The friend of the royal couple, businessman Javier López Madrid, together with other advisers at Caja Madrid bank, made use of a “black" credit card that allegedly allowed him to make thousands of euros of purchases at no personal charge, and without declaring the transactions to the Spanish Treasury.

The bank, which collapsed in Spain's costliest ever bailout in 2012, allowed López Madrid to charge approximately $38,000 dollars (24,807 euros) on the card. It was part of a bailout by the Spanish State to the tune of $25 billion dollars (23 billion euros). Spain's High Court is investigating whether cards held by dozens of former board members and executives were misused for personal expenses.

In López Madrid's case prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 18 months in jail for misappropriation of funds.

The messages from Felipe and Letizia were sent to the businessman’s private telephone in October 2014 just five days after the credit card scandal was revealed by eldiario.es.

The email revelations come as Spain is struggling to emerge from a deep economic recession and lacks a government after inconclusive general elections in December. A series of political corruption scandals and deeply unpopular austerity measures have sapped public trust in the two main political parties that have ruled Spain in recent decades - the People’s Party and the Socialist Party.

The royal family's reputation has also been dented by several embarassing episodes. King Felipe's sister, Princess Cristina, is currently facing trial on fraud charges related to her husband's business affairs. At the height of the recession in 2012 her father, the former King Juan Carlos, was much criticized for taking a luxury elephant-hunting trip to Botswana. Until now, Felipe and Letizia had escaped blemish, and the handsome couple had restored some luster to the crown.

According to a poll conducted by the Center for Sociological Research [ Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas ], corruption is the second most important concern (47.5%) in the country after unemployment.

Although López Madrid tried to erase the messages, Spanish investigators were able to retrieve them after a court order was issued, eldiario.es reported.

“I wrote to you when the article came out in the shitty LOC (a supplement of Spanish newspaper El Mundo) and you already know what I’m thinking, Javier. We know who you are, you know who we are. We know each other, we like each other, we respect each other. The rest is shit. A kiss to my yoga companion (miss you!!!),” wrote the Queen of Spain, identified as “Ltzia.” According to eldiario.es, López Madrid and the Spanish king shared a friendship that later drew in the queen. The businessman and Letizia were also classmates at private yoga lessons.

“I appreciate it a lot. In the future I will be extremely careful. We live in a very difficult country and I will be even more conscious of my own conduct,” replied López Madrid, via iMessage chat service on his iPhone 5s.

One conversation was conducted by a person identified on the telephone as “PF PT.” Other messages led eldiario.es to conclude that these were the initials of “Prince Felipe, Private.”

“Tell me about it! I'll join the chat, but I prefer taking time out to talk without any electronic or telephonic intermediaries. Shall we have dinner tomorrow? Warm regards,” went on Felipe de Borbón who ascended the throne four months earlier in June 2014.


The monarch’s invitation had to wait. At the time López Madrid was in San Francisco: “I’ll be back Sunday, but if necessary I can return sooner,” he wrote back. The king informed him there was no hurry and that he simply wanted to get together with him to talk things over calmly: “When you get back we can talk. Warm regards and try to find some enjoyment while away from this mess.”

The pair shared dinner a days later, according to other messages, according to eldiario.es.

When contacted by eldiario.es, the Royal Household neither denied nor confirmed the authenticity of the conversations withLópez Madrid, an executive at Grupo Villar Mir, a privately-held conglomerate with real estate, energy and infrastructure interests. A spokesman only stated that he was no longer a friend of the royal couple.

The alleged credit card abuses at two banks, Caja Madrid and Bankia, were discovered by current managers and have already led to the resignation of union leaders, businessmen and the king's private adviser. About 15.5 million euros $17 million) was racked up on the Bankia and Caja Madrid credit cards by 86 former staff between 2003 and 2012, according to court documents seen by Reuters.

The purchases, a mix of the mundane and the extravagant -- from cinema tickets, groceries and flowers to jewels, holidays and clothes -- have fuelled public demands for reform.

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