On Saturday Iñaki Urdangarin again monopolized the limelight in the proceedings concerning the “Nóos case,” rectifying an attitude that has compromised the prestige of the Royal Household, and which threatens to place the monarch himself under a shadow.
King Juan Carlos’s son-in-law has taken a long time in raising a firewall between his business activities and the palace. Now he is at last doing so, when his judicial situation has become rather more precarious than when he first gave evidence before the judge, in February 2012, and also owing to the pressure of a number of emails publicized by Diego Torres, his former partner at the Nóos Institute. If Urdangarin was suspected, a year earlier, of misappropriation of public funds, influence trafficking and fraud, he now stands under suspicion of having committed various fiscal offenses. The Revenue Agency has found non-payments of personal income tax amounting to more than 240,000 euros, as well as a 230,000-euro evasion of corporate tax. And the worst of it is that this comes after a year of investigations which belie the image of innocence that he had claimed for himself, and the limited symbolic role that he had attributed to himself at Nóos.
In a strategy calculated to serve his own personal interests, Torres has been releasing — in dribs and drabs and according to his own interests — material which undermines Urdangarin’s attempts to stay on the fringes of the proceedings, and which also seeks to implicate Princess Cristina. He is also attempting to portray the advice the Royal Household gave to Urdangarin (to distance himself from the affairs of the Nóos Institute) as a mere whitewashing gesture.
The circumstance that the king’s son-in-law has drawn a line between his wife’s family and his own professional activities will not necessarily avert further problems. The judge has raised the question of whether there exists a visitor’s book in the Zarzuela Palace (the royal residence), with the aim of verifying whether a certain meeting, which Torres says happened and other supposed participants deny, took place there or not. Judicial investigations are going to continue, and in this respect we can only hope for full cooperation on the part of all the persons concerned, so as not to unnecessarily prolong the proceedings in a case which has such tremendous destabilizing potential. So much so, that the Royal Household has found itself obliged to deny that Don Juan Carlos is thinking of abdicating.
The considerable international coverage given to the Urdangarin case is one more reason to establish a definitive demarcation of the judicial terrain, and to call for speed in bringing the case to trial. The second lesson to be drawn is that the office of head of state in our country needs a serious overhaul, in terms of regular institutional structure. There are individuals who have tried to place themselves under the umbrella of the Royal Household in order to climb and to increase their influence. All this at the price of weakening and discrediting an institution that ought to be above these vicissitudes.