King's son-in-law used royal residence to strike contracts

Duke's books pored over during Palma Arena probe

Palma de Mallorca - 01 ene 2012 - 20:16 UTC

Iñaki Urdangarin, the son-in-law of King Juan Carlos who is embroiled in a corruption case involving public funds, negotiated contracts with members of the Balearic Popular Party in the royal family's Mallorca vacation residence, according to statements given to investigators.

Urdangarin, the duke of Palma and husband of Princess Cristina, stands accused of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and administrative fraud through tourist-sports conventions organized by his non-profit Nóos Institute.

Investigators state that at least half of the 2.3 million euros Nóos charged for conventions in 2005 and 2006 wound up in private firms run by Urdangarin and his business partner Diego Torres.

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Urdangarin is scheduled to appear in court on February 25.

The duke's accounts came under scrutiny as part of the wider Palma Arena corruption case that felled regional PP baron Jaume Matas.

The sports complex in the Balearic capital ran some 60 million euros over budget, which led to investigations into Matas' personal fortune and the alleged illegal financing of the PP in the Balearic region.

Although Urdangarin has no links to Palma Arena, several of the public bodies implicated therein were the same that signed the agreements with Nóos in 2005 and 2006.

Urdangarin first became involved with the Matas adminstration in 2003, when he mediated in the sale of cycling team Banesto to the Balearic regional government at the behest of José Luis Ballester, the former regional sports chief and a friend of the royal family.

It was Ballester and Matas who met with Urdangarin at the royal family's Marivent Palace in Mallorca to discuss deals relating to the sponsorship of tourism and sports on the island. Torres told the judge that Urdangarin did not receive money for his management of Nóos but he did "charge for services through the company for which he was an administrator, Aizoon, for studies and projects that were carried out."

Aizoon was one of the private firms to which funds were allegedly diverted from Nóos by Urdangarin and Torres.