Royal son-in-law boasted of king’s support for lucrative deals
“SM has reiterated his enthusiasm for the project to go ahead,” reads one of emails revealed by former business partner
Iñaki Urdangarin, a son-in-law to King Juan Carlos, boasted about his relationship with the monarch in emails to his associates, the documents handed over to the judge investigating allegations of corruption at the Duke of Palma’s not-for-profit Nóos Institute reveal. Urdangarin was forced to leave his post at the company in 2007 at the king’s request after allegations of financial irregularities first began to emerge, but the emails show that Juan Carlos continued to retain an interest in his business ventures afterward.
Among the 197 messages handed over by Diego Torres -- Urdangarin’s former business partner and co-accused – are some directly linking the king with the duke´s business dealings. “Let’s see if we can speak tomorrow because it is important. SM [presumably Su Majestad – His Majesty] has mentioned a possible sponsor and when I go on Sunday I want to leave it with him nicely tied up,” Urdangarin wrote in December 2007.
During that time, the duke was fronting a project called Ayre, which aimed to get a second Spanish sailing team admitted to the 33rd Americas Cup. Last year, when the first wave of messages considered damaging to the image of the Royal Household emerged, Torres revealed that the king had intervened on Urdangarin’s behalf in the matter.
An organogram of the Ayre project had at its apex the name of heir-to-the-throne Prince Felipe as honorary president. Urdangarin was to be president of the board and his wife, Princess Cristina, “sporting consultant.” Although the project never came to fruition, the emails abound with the thesis that the Royal Household actively supported it.
“Overselling the participation of The Family in the project when you-know-who is helping us in the way he is isn’t the best path,” reads an email to Pedro Perelló, a yachtsman who the king met on Urdangarin’s behalf. “SM has reiterated his enthusiasm for the project to go ahead.”
The messages appear to confirm the influence of Carlos García Revenga, an advisor to the king’s daughters, in the day-to-day running of Nóos, through which Urdangarin and Torres received six million euros in public funding that was later channeled to private businesses in their names. Such was García Revenga’s intimacy with Nóos that he even advised the duke on office printers. “The HP 7550 that SM the queen has has very good picture quality,” reads one missive.
Urdangarin signed off some of his mails to García Revenga as “Txikitín.” In another, the duke writes of a “well-paid job that is agreeable for my working life” and attached a picture of naked women riding bicycles. The princess’ advisor sent Urdangarin a letter from the International Olympic Committee and advice on how to respond to invitations to events in São Paulo.
In his declaration Saturday, Torres implied that Princess Cristina, who has not been formally accused of participation in her husband’s business dealings, was part of the decision-making process at Nóos. The emails shed no further light on Cristina’s duties as a board member but do reveal that Urdangarin, far from occupying a purely representational position, signed all of the employees’ contracts and did the Social Security paperwork when workers left.
According to one of the mails, a former public works minister, José Blanco, intervened in the regional assembly in Valencia when questions were asked about the funding for the Valencia Summit in 2006, which Nóos was contracted to organize. “They are trying to get a personal message to the deputy who asked for the information,” wrote Nóos executive Antonio Ballabriga to Urdangarin and Torres.
In another message, Urdangarin writes to Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, the former wife of a German prince, to inquire about a job as “president” of Laureus, the international sports awards society of which Sayn-Wittgenstein is strategic director.
“Thank you for the wonderful time in London. I attach the curriculum as was mentioned by his majesty, Juan Carlos I, King of Spain. I hope to hear positive news soon.”
Urdangarin’s role was to involve attracting Spanish “sports stars and sponsors” to the organization.
“I have to negotiate your salary,” replied Sayn-Wittgenstein, a close friend of the king who went on the controversial Botswana elephant hunting trip on which Juan Carlos broke his hip in April last year. “I will do what I can to get you as much as possible. Lots of love. Corinna.”
A few days later she emailed to confirm that Urdangarin’s base salary would be 200,000 euros with a variable of another 50,000. The job offer coincided with the Valencia Summit in 2006, which Sayn-Wittgenstein attended. “I have copied in your father-in-law and hope that this answer will allay your doubts,” wrote Sayn-Wittgenstein some time later when forwarding a proposal from Laureus some time later.