Saturday 25 February 2017

Spanish king's son-in-law is suspect in fraud scandal

Nick Squires in Madrid

A member of the Spanish royal family has been summoned to appear before a judge as a suspect in a corruption case.

The King of Spain's son-in-law was yesterday summoned to testify in a widening fraud and embezzlement scandal that threatens to damage the credibility of the country's royal family.

Inaki Urdangarin (43), a former Olympic athlete who carries the title Duke of Palma, will face court as part of an investigation into accusations that a non-profit organisation he ran was siphoning off funds from the regional government of the Balearic Islands.

The Noos Institute, which Mr Urdangarin ran from 2004 to 2006, is accused of misusing millions of euros in public funds.

The case has made the front pages of Spanish newspapers for weeks, but a judge's decision to name the king's son-in-law as a formal suspect took the scandal to a new level.

The former handball player, who is married to Princess Cristina, King Juan Carlos's younger daughter, will have to appear in court in Palma, the capital of Majorca, on February 6. He has not been charged with any crime and denies any wrongdoing.

The ex-sportsman, who represented his country at three Olympic Games, apologised publicly this month for the embarrassment his legal problems were causing the royals.

Investigators allege that the Noos Institute organised two tourism conferences for the Balearic Islands, charging €2.3m, and channelled more than half of that money to companies owned by Mr Urdangarin or his business partners.

His lawyer Mario Pascual Vives said his client was "absolutely innocent" and looked forward to having an opportunity to "defend his honour".

Spain's royals have distanced themselves from Mr Urdangarin, suspending him from official engagements earlier this month.

In a display of transparency apparently prompted by the case, the royal family disclosed details of its revenue for the first time this week, showing the king and his immediate family received €814,128 last year for expenses.

King Juan Carlos earns €292,552 a year in salary and expenses and his son, Crown Prince Felipe, roughly half that amount, while Queen Sofia and the princesses Cristina, Elena and Letizia receive €370,000 between them.

Concern

The palace is assigned an annual budget by parliament. It totalled €8.4m in 2011.

An opinion poll by the Social Research Centre showed that the historically high approval ratings for the royal family have fallen this year.

In his annual Christmas Eve speech, the 73-year-old king expressed concern over declining confidence among Spaniards in public institutions, a remark seen as a reference to the scandal surrounding his son-in-law.

Since 2009 Mr Urdangarin, his wife and their four children have lived in Washington DC, where he works for Telefonica. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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