Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Queen Fabiola finances Catholic Church with taxpayer’s money

Queen Fabiola of BelgiumBelgium’s Catholic sovereign is under attack.

“Fabiola is channelling the annual stipend she receives from the government to the Catholic Church and relatives of hers.” 

The widow of King Baudouin has sparked controversy in Brussels as mass media and lay parties revealed she has created a private fund to bequeath part of her fortune to a number of Catholic charities established by her late husband and to relatives such as her nieces and nephews.

Television channels, newspapers and anti-monarchy political representatives have branded the establishment of her new foundation as ethically flawed as it is claimed it is a means to dodge Belgium’s extremely high inheritance taxes. 

Separatist MPs, the government, republicans, lay people and constitutionalists have pointed the finger at the Queen, in protest.

The most serious accusation against her is related to fiscal evasion: one minister explicitly mentioned her trying to dodge taxes. 

Questions have also been raised about the fairness of the Queen’s allowance as she is able to bequeath part of her fortune to her favourite charities, avoiding regular tax amounts. 

Above all, the monarchy has been criticised for its denominational neutrality.

In recent days it has been repeatedly stressed that Baudouin had not wanted to sign the abortion law. 

The attack on the monarchy essentially appears to be a new offensive against the Catholic Church which is already struggling in Belgium, in light of the paedophile priest scandal. 

In actual fact, Fabiola set up a “private fund” to help relatives of hers and various Catholic charities. But the foundation was financed through the sale of assets and property that were inherited from Fabiola’s Spanish family.

But the move was still interpreted by many sectors of public opinion as a way of dodging inheritance tax which in Belgium is as high as 70%. 

Since her husband’s death in 1993, Fabiola has received an annual stipend of 1, 4 million Euros which adds up to 27 million Euros received over a twenty year period. 

Fabiola is the third daughter of Count Gonzalo Mora Fernandez Fernandez y Riera del Olmo. She married Baudouin in 1960 and the couple never had any children. After her husband’s death, the queen moved from the Royal Palace of Laeken to the smaller and more modest Stuyvenbergh Castle. 

The consequences of the controversy were immediate. 

Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo announced that as of this year, 84-year-old Fabiola’s allowance would be reduced and the amendment introduced during the presentation of the 2013 Budget, so that her allowance would not be greater than that of Prince Philippe, son of King Albert II and heir to the throne. 

“This is the first stage in an accelerated programme of concrete reforms affecting all members of the royal family,” Di Rupo’s spokesman said.

The foundation’s statute states clearly that the queen’s childless nephews and nieces can only receive financial aid "for a limited period" and on condition of facing "serious physical, material, psychological or moral difficulties."

Fabiola denies allegations that she planned to channel her annual allowance to relatives and the Catholic Church.” 

"I have never had the intention of depositing funds I received from the public purse with my foundation," she claimed in an attempt to quell criticisms from newspapers, public opinion and politicians who accuse her of establishing a foundation to help her nephews and nieces and Catholic charities when she dies.

"All the monies that I receive from the civil list go on expenditure on my household. The lion's share goes on salaries,” Fabiola stressed in a statement issued by her lawyer. The money for the foundation comes from private resources, she added, "property and art works that I carefully kept until today" and that she and her siblings inherited between the two World Wars from a relative. 

None of her Spanish relatives had ever been beneficiaries of Baudouin's estate, the queen stated.

No comments: