King sails into Nóos corruption morass through son-in-law’s emails

Urdangarin’s ex-business partner provides documents to investigating judge Monarch said to be providing help to set up America's Cup yachting team

Jesús García Bueno

The content of the three emails sent by Iñaki Urdangarin in 2007 suggest that King Juan Carlos acted as a mediator so that his son-in-law could enter a new team into the 32nd America’s Cup yachting regatta. The documents were sent by Urdangarin’s former business partner, Diego Torres, to the Palma de Mallorca court investigating the activities of the royal’s non-profit Nóos Institute.

The Ayre project, which did not come to fruition following the fiasco that the 2007 Valencia regatta became, was managed by the sailors, businessmen and friends of the king’s daughters, Pedro Perelló and Jorge Forteza, with the support of Urdangarin, Princess Cristina’s husband who holds the title of Duke of Palma.

In one of these communications, dated September 30, 2007 Torres asked the duke about his “experience” at seminars regarding urban planning in Philadelphia and informed him that Perelló was spending “quite a while on the telephone each day” strengthening contacts within Valencia’s public administrations.

A day later, Urdangarin replied from Washington: “I have a message from the king and he told [princess] Cristina, so that she’d tell me, that [former Valencia regional premier Francisco] Camps would call Pedro about the base for the Prada. And he said that in principle there should be no problem and he’ll help us to get it,” the duke wrote, in allusion to the necessary installations at the port of Valencia to house the Ayre project’s yacht, the Prada.

We have managed to get the king to see Pedro to present the project”

In the same email Urdangarin told Torres “there could be a little something for the [Nóos] foundation” and said it was a shame that its website was not in English. “It would give it more of an international touch,” said the duke, adding that Agustín Zulueta, the captain of the Desafio Español team that took part in the 2007 America’s Cup “has asked Cristina to meet him for a coffee to explain something he couldn’t say over the phone. Mysterious, but it seems it’s important.”

The emails about the ambitious yachting project, which Torres’ lawyer, Manuel González Peeters placed in the hands of the judge on Monday, go back to August 9, 2007. In the correspondence, Urdangarin revealed the supposed encounter between King Juan Carlos and Perelló: “We have managed to get the king to see Pedro to present the project. The meeting went well, and as well as viewing it as well-prepared he offered every help in finding financial help,” the duke wrote to Torres.

Later, on September 20, Urdangarin wrote another email to Perelló again regarding the supposed actions of the monarch to see the project come to fruition. “The king told me that a friend of his has carried out the negotiation we asked for with Miguel Fluxa,” in allusion to the owner of the Iberostar Group, Miguel Fluxá. “On the other hand, he has passed on [to Fluxá] the good understanding with BBVA and that he would give [bank chairman] Paco González a nudge.”

The emails also reveal certain differences over the presence of a second Spanish team in the America’s Cup. Zulueta states in an October 2007 missive that he would feel “more relaxed” after speaking to “Cristina” and that he trusted Perelló “will not continue to send surprise documents to our sponsors.” The tone of the message, above all, is conciliatory and tells Urdangarin that “Desafio Español does not have anything against the presence of another Spanish team and, of course, has no assumed right to be the only one.”

An email sent by another of the suspects in the Nóos case, Antonio Ballabriga — corporate director of BBVA, a director of Nóos since 2007 and a friend of the duke — appears to confirm that Urdangarin was still actively engaged in his activities at Nóos and with public administrations, despite his formal renunciation of his posts in March 2006 after the king’s emissary, José Manuel Romero Moreno, had advised the duke to wash his hands of his business dealings. “As we have arranged, we’ll see each other this Friday at 10am at [the offices of] Nóos to speak about the meetings over the project for the European Games.”

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