Spanish king's son-in-law to appear in court again

22nd February 2013, Comments 0 comments

Spanish King Juan Carlos' son-in-law and his daughters' longtime secretary will be questioned Saturday by a judge investigating a corruption case that has cast a growing shadow over the entire royal family.

Inaki Urdangarin, who is married to the king's youngest daughter, and former partner Diego Torres are suspected of syphoning off millions of euros paid by regional governments to the Noos Institute, a charitable organisation which Urdangarin chaired from 2004 to 2006.

The money was meant to cover the cost of staging sporting and tourism events.

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

Throughout the week Spanish newspapers have published e-mails supposedly sent by Urdangarin which appear to indicate that the 75-year-old king backed and closely followed his business career.

The revelations are embarrassing for the royal palace which has tried to mark a clear border between Urdangarin's business affairs and the royal family, especially Urdangarin's wife, Princess Cristina, since the scandal erupted at the end of 2011.

The e-mails have reportedly been added to investigating judge Jose Castro's file as he builds his case against Urdangarin, a 45-year-old former Olympic handball champion who was once seen as the ideal son-in-law.

Castro questioned Urdangarin for the first time as part of his probe in February last year at a court in Palma on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca where the Noos Institute was based.

Last month the court summoned Urdangarin, who acquired the title of Duke of Palma when he wed the king's youngest daughter Cristina in 1997, to appear in court again in Saturday.

The court also ordered Carlos Garcia Revenga, secretary to the king's daughters Cristina and Elena, to appear at the court for questioning in the case for the first time.

Garcia will be questioned about his role at the Noos Institute and "his possible work as an advisor" to Urdangarin, a court source said.

The palace has said it would keep Garcia in his post and would take no action until he goes before the judge.

-- Bad time for the king --

The court questioning comes at a bad time for the king, who will have surgery for a slipped disc on March 3 at a Madrid clinic in what will be his seventh operation in three years.

King Juan Carlos, who has appeared on crutches over recent months after having both hips replaced in three operations last year, has increasingly ceded ground to his son, Crown Prince Felipe, at official ceremonies.

The 45-year-old had more official engagements than any other member of the royal family last year.

The royal palace on Friday denied the king was planning to abdicate after journalist Jose Antonio Zarzalejos, former director of conservative daily newspaper ABC, reported in online news site El Confidencial that the monarch was planning to step down.

The denial also follows calls by several regional politicians for the king to abdicate.

King Juan Carlos is widely admired for guiding Spain to democracy after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.

But with Spain grappling with a record unemployment rate of 26 percent and steep government spending cuts, the allegations of corruption involving Urdangarin have taken their toll on the monarchy.

General support for having a monarchy in Spain fell to 54 percent, six points lower than a year ago and "a historic low", according to a poll published last month in daily newspaper El Mundo.

Earlier this month the court in Palma said it would begin freezing assets belonging to Urdangarin and his former business partner after they missed a deadline to pay bail of 8.2 million euros ($11.1 million).

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

© 2013 AFP

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