Royal son-in-law told to “cover his tracks” in corruption probe email

Urdangarin’s business partner reveals a fresh batch of documents related to the Nóos Institute embezzlement affair

/ Barcelona / Palma de Mallorca 10 ENE 2013 - 17:03 CET

The legal battle between Iñaki Urdangarin and his former business partner, Diego Torres, reached new heights on Thursday with the release of a batch of emails that purportedly implicate the royal son-in-law in an ongoing scheme to divert public funds.

Urdangarin and Torres are both targets of a criminal investigation into the embezzlement of 2.3 million euros from the Balearic Islands regional government through their now-defunct non-profit organization, the Nóos Institute. The emails were submitted by Torres’ defense team to the investigative judge in charge of the massive case.

King's friend attended Valencia Summit 2004

Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. / Alex Moss / FilmMagic

As part of his legal strategy to disassociate himself from any crimes allegedly committed by the Nóos management, Diego Torres also submitted an email from 2004 between Francisco Larrey, another employee at the institute, and German Princess Corrina Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a very close friend to King Juan Carlos.

In the November 2, 2004 email, Corrina congratulates Larrey “for the fantastic organization” at the Valencia Summit 2004 and her travel arrangements.

“We had a wonderful time. Well done!!! With best regards,” she wrote.

She was responding to Larrey’s email in which he called her “a lovely woman.”

“If you need something here in Barcelona or in Valencia and I can help you, just say the word. Much love, Francisco Larrey.”

The two former partners have become bitter enemies during the process of the investigation, blaming each other for mismanagement and irregularities at the institute they had set up to organize sports and tourism conferences for regional and local governments.

In one of the emails, Urdangarin’s former secretary, Mario Sorribas, tells King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law in 2007 to “play down” the fact that he is now a partner in the Foundation for Sports, Culture and Social Integration – the organization that was founded after Nóos was dismantled the year before.

“Don’t leave any traces that you are the ‘godfather’ of this affair,” Sorribas wrote after he saw on the Royal Household’s website a potted biography of Urdangarin that detailed the former Olympic handball player’s participation in various foundations and philanthropic groups.

“What we can do is give the press a dossier that states that you – like other athletes connected to this organization – have been with us for several months of your own free will. That way it won’t look like that you have been the driving force and no one can say: ‘this is Iñaki’s organization’.”

Various witnesses have told investigative Mallorca Judge José Castro and the anti-corruption prosecutor Pedro Horrach that Urdangarin continued to do business with regional governments after his father-in-law, the king, had told him to stop.

Urdangarin and Torres could face charges ranging from embezzlement to public fraud. Last summer, the royal family member – who has the title of the Duke of Palma – testified before the court and denied having any role in diverting public money.

Don’t leave any traces that you are the ‘godfather’ of this affair”

According to the investigation, both men diverted some 2.3 million euros from the Balearics government and 3.7 million from the Valencia administration to organize sports and tourism conferences. The money, prosecutors allege, actually went to Urdangarin’s private businesses, including the real estate firm Aizoon that he jointly operated with his wife, Princess Cristina.

As part of the scheme, inflated bills and expenses were submitted to the regional governments for conferences that actually cost a fraction of the stated prices. For his part, Sorribas has played down his role at the Nóos Institute and the foundation, telling the judge that he was just a “simple employee.”

This isn’t the first time that Torres’ defense team has released compromising emails. Last March, his lawyers turned over to the court a series of emails and documents that raised suspicions that the Royal Household had tried to cover up Urdangarin’s tracks, and purportedly magnified Cristina’s role in the entire affair.

But Judge Castro has opted not to target the princess in his investigation, saying that there is no evidence that she was a party to what was going on.

The investigation has been underway for several years but no formal charges have yet been brought against any of the suspects.

Last year, Urdangarin took a leave of absence from his job at Telefónica in Washington, where he served as an advisor in the telecom’s Latin American department. He returned to Spain to fight the accusations.

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