By DANIEL WOOLLS, Associated Press
MADRID (AP) — The chief justice of Spain's Supreme Court resigned Thursday amid allegations that he billed the government for dozens of private trips to seaside resorts.
The case of alleged high-level cheating with public money was another source of irritation for Spaniards enduring recession, a 24.4 percent jobless rate, and growing fears the country might need a bailout.
Judge Carlos Divar, 70, announced his resignation Thursday at a meeting of a 20-member judicial oversight board of which he is also the chairman.
In April, King Juan Carlos came under stinging criticism for taking an elephant-hunting trip to Botswana in southern Africa during a particularly bad week in the economic crisis. The royal palace insists the king was a guest of someone else on that trip and did not spend taxpayer money. Still, he was criticized as being grossly insensitive to the suffering of everyday people by taking such a lavish safari at a time like this. Upon his return, he made an unprecedented public apology.
A judicial oversight board official who attended Thursday's meeting said Divar denied any wrongdoing and quoted him as saying he was stepping down after a month of headline-grabbing pressure to avert further damage to the image of Spain's judiciary.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in with department rules. The agency is called the General Council of the Judiciary and supervises the Spanish court system and the behavior of its more than 4,000 judges.
The complaint against Divar was filed by another member of the oversight board. It asserted Divar filed for reimbursement for trips to resorts such as Marbella, a jet-set spot down south, when they were personal in nature. Divar insists they were work-related.
The board official said the body's practice is that judges don't need to justify their travel expenses.
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