Spain king's son-in-law distances royal family from fraud scandal

Urdangarin distances Spain's King Juan Carlos and family from charity fraud probe

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 February, 2013, 6:25am

Spanish King Juan Carlos' son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin moved yesterday to distance the royal family from a corruption scandal that has struck at the heart of the palace.

Urdangarin was questioned by a judge on the island of Majorca over 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 authorise the activities of Noos," Urdangarin told the judge yesterday, according to a copy of his declaration published by Spanish media.

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

When the palace learned of allegations against public companies that had worked with Noos, he added, it "recommended that I give up an activity that it considered inappropriate for my institutional status, and that is what I did".

Urdangarin and Torres are suspected of siphoning off money paid by regional governments to the Noos Institute 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.

Carlos Garcia Revenga, longtime secretary of Urdangarin's wife, the king's youngest daughter Cristina, was also due to be questioned yesterday by Jose Castro.

Urdangarin made no comment to reporters when he arrived at court with his lawyer for the closed-door hearing.

A crowd of protesters massed nearby yelling in rage at the alleged corruption, which has fanned public anger at a time of economic hardship.

Juan Carlos has enjoyed widespread respect for helping guide Spain to democracy in the 1970s. He has distanced the palace from Urdangarin since the scandal erupted at the end of 2011.

As Spain grapples with a record unemployment rate of 26 per cent 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 per cent, according to a poll published last month in daily newspaper El Mundo.

Urdangarin, a 45-year-old former Olympic handball champion, acquired the title of Duke of Palma when he wed Cristina in 1997.