In-Law Says Spain's Royal Family Had No Business Role

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MADRID -- A son-in-law of King Juan Carlos I denied Saturday that his wife and other members of the Spanish royal household had any direct involvement in his past business dealings, which have been at the heart of a fraud investigation that has embarrassed the monarchy.

The son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, who became the Duke of Palma in 1997 when he married Cristina, the younger daughter of the king, told Judge José Castro that the king, Princess Cristina and royal household officials had not offered him any advice about the activities of the Nóos Institute, a sports foundation that Mr. Urdangarin had run.

Prosecutors have been investigating whether Mr. Urdangarin used his royal credentials to secure inflated, no-bid contracts from regional politicians for his foundation and then diverted millions of euros from the contract fees into other companies and offshore accounts that he and his associates controlled.

Mr. Urdangarin opened his testimony in closed court by reading a statement. In it, he insisted that, rather than getting involved in his dealings at Nóos in any way, the royal household had eventually recommended that he end his association with the foundation, as it did not consider such activities to be "adequate for my institutional status," according to a text released to reporters.

Mr. Urdangarin's denial of any royal supervision contradicted recent statements by Diego Torres, his main business partner, which have raised the pressure on King Juan Carlos. Mr. Torres, who is also under investigation, told Judge Castro last weekend that Mr. Urdangarin had made no move without the royal palace's approval, turning over nearly 200 e-mails to support his claim.

Although Princess Cristina is not part of the investigation, Mr. Torres also indicated in his testimony that she had been involved in the running of the foundation with her husband, either directly or through her royal secretary, Carlos García Revenga.

Judge Castro has not yet determined whether prosecutors have enough evidence to charge Mr. Urdangarin, Mr. Torres and others involved in the foundation.

The police on Saturday blocked off the courthouse in Palma, Majorca, and the surrounding streets to keep jeering protesters far from Mr. Urdangarin.

Virginia López Negrete, a lawyer who attended the hearing as a third party in the case, said, "Nothing that he said today has convinced me of his innocence -- quite the contrary -- nor has he provided anything to refute all the evidence that has been building up as court documents." Ms. López Negrete was there on behalf of Manos Limpias, or Clean Hands, an association that is urging the judiciary to pursue dozens of corruption cases.

The scandals have also landed on the doorstep of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is dealing with an investigation into how his party's former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, amassed millions in secret Swiss bank accounts and whether Mr. Bárcenas ran a parallel fund to make illegal payments to senior politicians.

Mr. Bárcenas, Mr. Rajoy and other party leaders have denied any wrongdoing, but the allegations have angered Spaniards, who are struggling with austerity cuts imposed by Mr. Rajoy's government. On Saturday, thousands of protesters in Madrid shouted slogans like "Your envelopes, my spending cuts!"

Speaking by phone from Palma after the court session, Ms. López Negrete, the lawyer from the Clean Hands association, said a "very nervous" Mr. Urdangarin had refused to answer many of the prosecutors' questions. He denied any wrongdoing in connection with his foundation, adding that his associates had handled its day-to-day management, she said. Mr. Urdangarin also said he had never had any offshore bank accounts, and denied claims that he had a business meeting with regional politicians from Valencia in the king's Zarzuela palace, as alleged by Mr. Torres, his former associate.

In other testimony on Saturday, Mr. García Revenga, the royal secretary, said the king was unaware that he and the princess had been members of the board of Nóos, roles that were more symbolic than executive, he suggested, according to Ms. López Negrete. Mr. García Revenga said that he joined the board as a "personal favor" to Mr. Urdangarin and that he and the princess were not involved in decision-making, Ms. López Negrete said. But Mr. García Revenga was presented in court with copies of e-mails suggesting that he helped organize business meetings for Nóos, Ms. López Negrete said.

Mr. Urdangarin's lawyers, however, asked the court to exclude the e-mails suggesting that the king and the royal household had monitored Mr. Urdangarin's activities long before the royal palace had publicly acknowledged. The lawyers raised questions about the authenticity of those e-mails and other documents provided by Mr. Torres.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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