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Spanish parliament rejects ex-king credit card probe

Spain’s parliament rejected Wednesday opening a probe into whether former king Juan Carlos I used credit cards linked to accounts not registered in his name.

Far-left party Podemos, part of the government coalition with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists, had together with other smaller regional parties called for the enquiry into a possible money-laundering offence.

Anti-corruption prosecutors are looking into the origin of funds deposited in several Spanish bank accounts held by a Mexican businessman and an official in the Spanish Air Force, and whether the money in them had been used by the former monarch.

If proven, the allegations could constitute a money laundering offence for which he could be prosecuted given that the movement of funds and use of the credit cards occurred after his abdication in June 2014, meaning he no longer had immunity as head of state.

Parliament’s governing body rejected the proposal for an investigation with votes from the Socialists and parties on the right.

Socialist Defence Minister Margarita Robles said the request was “not appropriate”, warning during a radio interview that it may “call into question our institutions”.

“And in a solid, serious democracy, it is not good for institutions to be questioned,” she added.

The rejection of the request angered Podemos, whose support Sanchez needs to stay in power and pass laws.

Pablo Echenique, the spokesman for Podemos in parliament, said there is “no legal argument to justify” the rejection of his party’s request.

He recalled that unlike other requests for a parliamentary probe into the ex-king’s financial affairs which were also rejected by parliament, this one was backed by lawyers of the chamber.

Last month the 83-year-old former king, who now lives in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates, settled a debt of nearly 680,000 euros ($820,000) with the Spanish tax authorities following a voluntary declaration of previously undisclosed income.

Prosecutors are also examining a Saudi high-speed rail contract that was won by a consortium of Spanish companies in 2011, seeking to establish whether the then-monarch was paid a commission.

According to Swiss daily La Tribune, the late Saudi king Abdullah deposited $100 million into a Swiss private bank in 2008 to which Juan Carlos I had access, prompting suspicions it was a kickback for the contract which was awarded three years later.

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