CORRUPTION

Urdangarin case judge cleared of leaks charge

José Castro, due to grill royal son-in-law Saturday, took "appropriate measures"

The General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) has cleared José Castro, the judge in charge of the Palma Arena corruption case that has also snared King Juan Carlos' son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, of any involvement in supposed leaks from his office of details of the case against the royal consort.

Urdangarin stands accused of influence-peddling, embezzlement of public funds and fraud over his stewardship of the not-for-profit Nóos Institute, through which he allegedly siphoned money from public contracts given to organize sports and tourism events to his private holdings.

The CGPJ cleared Castro of any wrongdoing just days before he is set to question Urdangarin over the Nóos case. In a court statement, the judicial watchdog said there had been insufficient evidence of an information leak and that Castro had "adopted all possible and appropriate measures to protect the confidentiality of the case and to avoid diffusion [of information] to third parties."

The complaint against Castro was launched by the lawyer of former Popular Party Balearics regional premier, Jaume Matas, the principal defendant in the Palma Arena case, which centers on large-scale embezzlement of public money during the construction of a sports complex in Mallorca. Antonio Alberca, representing Matas, claimed Castro had erred in neither halting nor investigating the supposed leaks of secret details of the case.

Prosecutors contend that Alberca's belligerent stance over Castro's decisions in the Palma Arena case are part of a defense strategy to hinder the trial with a series of appeals and attempts to discredit the judge.

Castro had "at no time had his actions or work called into question," the CGPJ said.

Urdangarin, who with his business partner Diego Torres is accused of funneling millions of euros gleaned through false invoices from the Nóos Institute to offshore accounts, arrived in Madrid on Monday from Philadelphia to prepare his statement for the court, to be delivered on Saturday morning. He made straight for the Zarzuela Palace on arrival, for a meeting with the king and Prince Felipe, who had previously sought to distance themselves.

Urdangarin moved to Washington in 2009 at the behest of the Royal Palace, which learned that the Infanta Cristina's husband was to be investigated as part of a spin-off case linked to Palma Arena. The same year Matas, who had also sought refuge across the Atlantic, was forced to return to Spain as the Palma Arena case broke. Matas also faces a probe into allegations he paid a journalist 500,000 euros to produce glowing reports about his administration for El Mundo.

Far-right group calls for princess to stand trial

The far-right pseudo-political grouping Manos Limpias, which was one of the complainants against Baltasar Garzón in his recent Franco-era crimes trial, has called for Princess Cristina to be indicted in the corruption case against her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin.

Manos Limpias, which presented itself as a party in the case late in the day, has questioned the role of King Juan Carlos' youngest daughter in the case, despite testimony from José Lluis Ballester, the former director general of sports in the Balearic government of Jaume Matas, stating that the royal daughter had no involvement with Urdangarin's business dealings. Manos Limpias argues that Cristina was a "direct beneficiary" of the alleged scam.

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