Spain: A royal family member in prison?
Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court's conviction of the husband of Princess Cristina for fraud and tax evasion, though it acquitted him of forgery and reduced his prison sentence by five months.
For those readers who still do not know me, this AL DÍA News reporter is from Barcelona and between 1997 and 2002 studied business administration at ESADE, one of the most prestigious business schools in Spain. During those years I often met in the faculty corridors with a face that some Latinos will find familiar: Iñaki Urdangarin, a famous F.C.Barcelona handball player married to Princess Cristina, sister of the current King Felipe VI of Spain.
Urdangarin was only a year ahead of my class, and among my faculty comrades there was a rumor that he was rarely seen in the classroom. Some would cross him in the corridor or at the exit of the cafeteria, others saw him taking private lessons with a funny finance professor, called Professor Massons. The fact is that he graduated in just three years when the whole academic program took normally five years. "Maybe he earned academic credit thanks to Handball”, a friend from ESADE joked recently, remembering our years with Urdangarin.
The King’s brother-in-law is back in the news since he was first accused in a corruption case seven years ago. The case, called “Nóos case,” accused Urdangarin and his business partner, Diego Torres, a former ESADE professor, expert in patronage and sponsorships, of corruption and traffic of influences used to organize sports events for regional governments, especially in the Balearic region (Mallorca) among other charges. The investigation started when huge costs to construct a cycling track on Mallorca were revealed.
The so-called "Nóos case" raised much controversy because, from the popular view, it seems that Urdangarin had "escaped” prison and that he had even been "allowed" to move with his family to Geneva, Switzerland, where his wife, the Infanta Cristina, obtained a job at the La Caixa Foundation and the Aga Khan Foundation. The fact that Urdangarin left Spain and was rid of harsher sentences was a reason for popular indignation, and many people have dared to accuse the justice of “not being equal” to all Spaniards.
But finally, justice has spoken.
Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday ratified a prison sentence that had been handed down to the brother-in-law of King Felipe VI, confirming a regional court's guilty verdict for various corruption crimes linked to a plot in which he unlawfully derived millions from public funds that were obtained and channeled through supposedly non-profit entities run by him and his business partner.
Although the Supreme Court reduced the sentence originally imposed on Iñaki Urdangarín (husband of the king's sister, Princess Cristina) by the regional court of Palma in Mallorca, from six years and three months to five years and 10 months, it ratified the guilty verdict on several counts linked to public corruption.
The "Nóos Case" first arrived at the Supreme Court on July 3, when one of the court's prosecutors sought a much harsher punishment for Urdangarín, ultimately to no avail. Urdangarín's defense counsel then also lodged an appeal against the original ruling and petitioned for the high court to exonerate him, alleging he was a mere mediator lacking knowledge of the law.
"I was simply a friendly fixer," Urdangarín claimed in his appeal, adding that he was a "mediator without any knowledge of administrative law."
The former Olympic handball player said he had merely used his contacts in the sports world and institutions so that the region of the Balearic Islands could "hold forums on tourism and sport," as well as "sponsor the best cycling team in the world."
"I did this with the awareness that everything was being done correctly and legally," read the appeal.