Mon, Apr 01, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Spanish princess lands in eye of graft scandal storm

AFP, MADRID

Spanish King Juan Carlos’s youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, is in the front line of a legal storm engulfing her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, who is under investigation for allegedly embezzling millions of euros in public money.

The 47-year-old has not been named as a suspect in the corruption probe opened at the end of 2011 by a judge on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

However, the graft allegations facing her husband have cast a growing shadow of suspicion over her role in the affair.

Urdangarin and his former partner, Diego Torres, are suspected of siphoning off money paid by regional governments to stage sports and tourism events to the non-profit Noos Institute, which Urdangarin chaired from 2004 to 2006.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing and have not been charged with any crime.

Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player, sought to distance his wife and the rest of the royal family from his business dealings when he was questioned in court in February by the judge leading the investigation.

However, two weeks ago, Torres provided the judge with e-mails that were leaked to the press which appear to show that Urdangarin regularly consulted his wife — a member of the board of the Noos Institute — about the body’s affairs.

Carlos Garcia Revenga, the longtime personal secretary to Princess Cristina and her older sister, Princess Elena, was questioned by the judge last month after Torres submitted another batch of e-mails that suggested he was actively involved in the Noos Institute’s dealings.

Princess Cristina, who works as the director of social welfare programs at Barcelona-based financial services group La Caixa’s charitable foundation, has kept a low profile since the scandal broke.

The easy smile she was known for has been replaced by a serious expression during her the rare outings.

“The deterioration in Princess Cristina’s image has no turning back, at least for a long time,” Complutense University history professor Emilio de Diego said.

“Princess Cristina has always been the wayward daughter of the family, I think some of the monarch’s mistakes when it comes to family matters began there, by tolerating that she work at a private firm like La Caixa and collect a salary without renouncing her status as a princess,” he added.

The corruption case has also burst the public image of Urdangarin as the ideal son-in-law that he had enjoyed since married Princess Cristina in a lavish ceremony in Barcelona on Oct. 4, 1997.

A fan of various sports, especially sailing, Princess Cristina — the seventh in line to the Spanish throne — met Urdangarin at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he was competing with Spain’s handball team, which won a bronze medal.

“It is possible that Princess Cristina did not know anything about all of this, but the increase in his personal fortune, all of that could not be ignored by a spouse who is very close to her husband,” said Pilar Eyre, who wrote a top-selling biography of the princess’ mother, Queen Sofia.

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