Spanish monarch’s son-in-law protects royals over scandal


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 - Page 6

Spanish King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin tried on Saturday to distance the royal family from a corruption scandal that has struck at the heart of the palace.

Urdangarin, husband of the king’s youngest daughter, Cristina, was questioned by a judge investigating allegations that he embezzled millions of euros of public money paid to Noos, a charity he managed.

“The royal family did not give its opinion on, advise or authorize the activities of Noos,” Urdangarin told the judge, according to a copy of his declaration published by Spanish media.

Urdangarin’s former business partner Diego Torres reportedly told the judge that the palace oversaw the activities of the company, from which Urdangarin quit as chairman in 2006.

Urdangarin and Torres are suspected of siphoning off money paid by regional governments to the Noos Institute, based on the island of Majorca, to stage sports and tourism events.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing and have not been charged with any crime. The judge is investigating the case with a view to possibly putting them on trial.

The royal palace sidelined Urdangarin from its official functions when the affair erupted in 2011, but has failed to prevent it reaching the palace itself.

Spanish newspapers citing unnamed sources in the case said Torres named Cristina as a decision-maker in the running of Noos.

He reportedly handed the judge e-mails which appeared to indicate that the king backed and closely followed his business career.

The e-mails have reportedly been added to the investigating judge’s file.

Carlos Garcia Revenga, the longtime secretary of Cristina and her sister Elena in the palace, was questioned after Urdangarin on Saturday by Jose Castro.

He too tried to distance the royal family from the affair, declaring that neither he nor Cristina took part in managing the company despite being named among its directors, Spanish media said.

Urdangarin made no comment to reporters when he arrived at court nor when he left after his four-hour closed-door hearing.

Juan Carlos has enjoyed widespread respect for helping guide Spain to democracy in the 1970s.

However, as Spain grapples with a record unemployment rate of 26 percent and government spending cuts, the allegations of corruption have taken their toll on the monarchy.

General support for having a monarchy in Spain fell to a historic low of 54 percent, according to a poll published last month in daily newspaper El Mundo.

This month the court in Palma de Majorca said it would begin freezing assets belonging to Urdangarin and Torres after they missed a deadline to pay bail of 8.2 million euros (US$11.1 million).

Since the bail was applied in a civil case the two will not go to jail for not paying the sum.