Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Growing Royal Scandal in Belgium Surrounding Prince Laurent

(Reuters) - Belgium's Prince Laurent has faced rare criticism from the king over an unauthorized trip to Congo last month that has led some lawmakers to say the errant son should lose his state allowance.
The palace confirmed Tuesday reports that King Albert, 76, was angry about his youngest son's visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony, which the government and the monarch had advised against.

The 47-year-old prince, 12th in line to the throne, travelled to Congo for a week in mid-March, officially to study deforestation. During his trip, he was greeted by Congolese President Laurent Kabila.
Belgian has strained ties with Congo, which was the personal fiefdom of King Leopold II in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and was ruled over by Belgium until independence in 1960. During the colonial era the country was stripped of mineral wealth and tens of thousands of people died in indentured slavery.

Belgian caretaker Prime Minister Yves Leterme told parliament last week he planned to remind the prince of his duties, raising the possibility that Laurent could lose his tax-free 300,000 euro ($425,500) annual royal stipend.

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