Spanish King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin appeared in court yesterday in a corruption case that has caused a rare embarrassment for Spain’s royals.
Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma, arrived on foot and looked calm as he entered the high court on the island of Majorca, as scores of noisy anti-monarchy protestors demonstrated in the street nearby.
Urdangarin, 44, a former Olympic handball player, is suspected of embezzling public money paid to a charity that was under his control. He has denied any wrongdoing.
“I am appearing today to demonstrate my innocence,” the duke, dressed in a black jacket and gray tie, told the waiting media outside the court.
“My intention today is to clarify the truth of what happened. I am convinced that my declaration today will help to do so,” he added, before entering the hearing, which was closed to the media.
The case implicating Urdangarin, who is married to the king’s youngest daughter Cristina, is the first major scandal to touch Juan Carlos’ family.
The allegations of royal corruption have raised indignation at a time when Spaniards are suffering the effects of an economic downturn, tough spending cuts and an unemployment rate of nearly 23 percent.
As the duke arrived at 9am, about 100 protesters yelled and waved signs, kept back by barriers and dozens of riot police in blue.
“Mind your wallet, Urdangarin’s coming,” some yelled, while some waved banners reading “Inaki owes us money” and “Monarchy = Corruption.”
One woman turned up wearing a black-and-white-striped prison uniform with a sign that read: “Inaki, see you in your new mansion.”
Urdangarin was appearing for a preliminary hearing in the investigation, in which he is a suspect along with former associates.
He is suspected of siphoning off money paid by regional governments to the Noos Institute, a charitable organization he chaired from 2004 to 2006, for staging sporting events and conferences.
Hearings began on Feb. 11 and were to wrap up with the judge’s questioning of the duke yesterday. The court will then decide whether there is enough evidence to put Urdangarin or one of the four other suspects on trial.
Urdangarin won two bronze medals with the Spanish handball team at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.
Since 2009 the duke, his wife and their four children, have lived in Washington, where he works for the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica.