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Spanish king’s son-in-law to face corruption case Feb 6

Spanish King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin must face accusations of corruption in court February 6, a judge said Thursday, in a ballooning royal scandal.

The announcement by the judge in Palma de Mallorca took the case to a new level, formally making the 43-year-old ex-Olympic handball player a suspect in a huge embarrassment for the monarchy.

Judge Jose Castro Aragon is investigating corruption in a non-profit organisation, Instituto Noos, formerly run by Urdangarin, who has the title Duke of Palma and is married to the king’s youngest daughter, Princess Cristina.

As a suspect, Urdangarin may appear with his lawyer at the court hearing in Palma de Mallorca, the judge said.

The duke’s lawyer, Mario Pascual Vives, said his client was “absolutely innocent”.

With the heavy media coverage there seemed to be a “popular clamour” for the duke to appear in court, the lawyer told Spanish media.

“Everything that has come out, all the judgements, all the stories, logically have damaged or tried to damage his honour. Now he has the chance… to begin to defend it.”

The ruling also unsealed related court documents.

One court document seen by AFP says the state prosecutors are investigating suspected forgery, perversion of the course of justice, fraud and embezzlement of public funds.

The discreet royals have acted swiftly over the scandal, which provoked an indignant reaction from many Spaniards at a time when five million people are out of work and the government plans harsh spending cuts.

“The accusation does not change our position. We continue with utmost respect for the judicial process which is the same position we have always had in this matter,” a palace official told AFP.

“We have the utmost confidence in the work of the judges. We hope that the matter will be clarified.”

On December 12, the royal family suspended the duke from official engagements and the palace’s highest official, Rafael Spottorno, gave an unprecedented rebuke, telling Spanish media his behaviour “does not seem exemplary”.

Partly in reaction to the scandal, the royals revealed their detailed income for the first time Wednesday, showing King Juan Carlos received a salary, expenses included, of 292,752 euros ($382,600) in 2011.

Urdangarin receives no money from the state.

On Tuesday, the king appeared without his two daughters as he opened parliament, a rare break from tradition and widely seen as a reaction to the corruption accusations, despite palace denials of any link.

Court documents seen by AFP showed that Instituto Noos was suspected of creaming off money from contracts paid by the regional government of the Balearic Islands where it is based.

The investigation centres notably on a payment of 2.3 million euros ($3.2 million) to Instituto Noos for organising a tourism and sports conference in 2005 and 2006.

Urdangarin was president of the company between 2004 and 2006.

Public prosecutors suspect the company of siphoning off money paid by the region to firms run by Urdangarin and his successor Diego Torres, according to a search warrant for the premises of the firm.

Juan Carlos was proclaimed king in 1975, two days after the death of General Francisco Franco who had designated him as successor in 1969. He is widely respected for helping to usher in democracy after Franco’s death.