Spain King's Brother-in-Law Convicted as Princess Is Cleared

  • Urdangarin jailed for six years and three months in Noos case
  • Case became lightning rod for anger at Spanish corruption

Inaki Urdangarin, the brother-in-law of Spain’s King Felipe VI, was convicted in a landmark corruption trial that became a lightning rod for public anger at abuses of the nation’s elite. His wife, Princess Cristina, was cleared by the court.

Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player, was given a jail term of six years and three months by a court in Palma de Mallorca on counts including fraud and influence peddling. Cristina, King Felipe’s sister, was cleared of being an accessory to tax fraud linked to her husband’s business, according to a statement by the General Council of Judicial Power.

The conviction for Urdangarin marks the denouement of a scandal that revealed to Spaniards how institutionalized corruption had grown up during the long economic boom that had turned to bust by 2008. Emerging as unemployment surged and the government slashed spending at the height of the country’s economic crisis, the case contributed to a sense of popular anger that helped turn the anti-austerity platform Podemos into a political force.

The Princess is happy to be cleared but disappointed in the sentence for her husband, whom she has always believed to be innocent, her lawyer, Miquel Roca, told reporters in televised comments.

“This long-running case has come to an end and it may do something to restore trust in public life,” said William Chislett, an analyst at the Real Instituto Elcano think tank in Madrid. “It’s all about the rule of law and everyone being equal before the law.”

The princess will have to pay as much as 265,088 euros because of responsibilities related to how she benefited from her husband’s dealings, the court said. She already paid a greater amount than that in 2014, Roca said.

Criminal Allegations

Cristina was the first Spanish royal to face criminal allegations in court since the monarchy was reinstated more than 40 years ago. King Juan Carlos, the father of Felipe and Cristina, abdicated in 2014 as the investigation into the scandal played out.

The court probe focused on the activities of the Noos Institute headed by Urdangarin which received public funds and Aizoon, a shell company he owned with Cristina that received money from it. The case centered on transfers made to Noos that first surfaced in 2006 when complaints were made about a 1.2 million-euro ($1.3 million) payment from the regional government of the Balearic Islands to fund a conference on tourism and sport.

Prosecutors will seek immediate prison for Urdangarin and for Diego Torres, his partner at Noos, El Pais reported. Torres was sentenced to eight years and six months in jail, on charges including influence trafficking, fraud and tax offenses.

Judges had ordered Cristina to stand trial even though the accusation against her was not supported by the public prosecutor. In 2015, King Felipe VI stripped his sister of her title, Duchess of Palma, which she inherited by royal decree in 1997.

— With assistance by Maria Tadeo, Thomas Gualtieri, and Macarena Munoz Montijano

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