Suspect accuses Spanish king's brother-in-law of graft

3rd July 2014, Comments 0 comments

A key suspect accused Spanish King Felipe VI's brother-in-law of embezzling public funds in testimony filed on Thursday, the latest twist in a scandal that has embarrassed the monarchy.

Accountant Marco-Antonio Tejeiro, a fellow suspect in the fraud case against Inaki Urdangarin -- the husband of Felipe's sister, Princess Cristina -- offered the first direct testimony against him in a written declaration filed by the prosecutor.

The scandal, subject of a four-year investigation by a judge in Palma de Mallorca, soured the reign of former King Juan Carlos, who tearfully handed the crown to his son last month.

Felipe, 46, took the throne on June 19 promising an "honest and transparent" monarchy.

Now he has to deal with the scandal's fallout, including the threat of Cristina, 49, facing an unprecedented criminal trial on related tax fraud and money-laundering charges.

Urdangarin, 46, a former Olympic handball player, is accused along with a former business partner, Diego Torres, of creaming off six million euros ($8 million) in public funds from contracts awarded to Noos, a supposedly non-profit foundation.

Noos's former accountant Tejeiro, who a court source said will receive a lighter sentence for cooperating with prosecutors, alleged systematic fraud by the two men.

"The profit that should have been pooled within the Noos Institute was not used for the ends of the association but was transmitted to the private companies of Messrs. Torres and Urdangarin," Tejeiro said in the testimony, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

Noos issued false bills to regional governments that served only to allow Torres and Urdangarin to "share out the profits", he said.

The accountant said he also knew of "simulated" employee contracts in Noos and a related firm Aizoon, accusing the two men of pocketing the money supposedly used to pay those wages.

- 'Absolute control' -

But he did not implicate Princess Cristina, stressing that Torres and Urdangarin "led the group as its bosses, having absolute control and decision-making power over it".

Both Cristina and Urdangarin deny wrongdoing. On Wednesday, she appealed against the tax fraud and money-laundering charges she faces related to Urdangarin's business dealings, arguing a lack of evidence.

Her lawyers are seeking to overturn a June 25 ruling by investigating judge Jose Castro, which upheld charges against her -- a penultimate step towards a possible trial.

"Not one procedure has been carried out that has provided rational indications that a tax crime or money-laundering was committed by our client," Cristina's lawyers wrote in their appeal.

The prosecutor, too, has appealed against the judge's decision to charge the princess.

Cristina sat on the board of Noos and Urdangarin was its chairman. Investigators suspect that a separate company jointly owned by the couple, Aizoon, served as a front for laundering embezzled money.

Tejeiro alleged in Thursday's filing that Aizoon "had no personnel nor resources to carry out its activities, and all bills it issued to Noos were aimed at diverting the funds received by the Noos Institute".

Questioned in court by Castro in February, Cristina, a mother of four with a master's degree from New York University, said she had simply trusted her husband and had no knowledge of his business affairs.

Urdangarin and Cristina have been excluded from royal activities since 2011.

Polls showed the monarchy's popularity plunged due to the scandal, although Juan Carlos's abdication gave them a fresh boost.

© 2014 AFP

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