Iñaki Urdangarin, the husband of King Juan Carlos' youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, has been called to testify before a court in Palma de Mallorca on February 6 in a case related to the alleged diversion of public funds to private companies through the non-profit Nóos Institute, set up by him, and which he ran until 2006.
The case came to light during an investigation into the so-called Palma Arena case, in which former Balearic Islands regional premier Jaume Matas of the Popular Party (PP) and others have been charged in an alleged public fraud scheme in the construction of a sport arena. The case has been sub-judice, but the delay in calling Urdangarin to testify has been unwarranted. Now that the initial investigation has been completed, the time has come for Urdangarin to come forward to defend the allegations against him. Until now, he and his lawyer have reiterated his innocence, and attempted to play down the impact of corruption charges on a member of the royal family.
The judge overseeing the case will be questioning the former Olympic handball player over indications that The Nóos Institute organized two tourist sports conventions for the island government, charging the regional government, run by the ruling Popular Party, 2.3 million euros. The investigation shows that half the money ended up in private for-profit entities run by Urdangarin and his partner Diego Torres.
Anti-corruption prosecutors also found a similar alleged scheme in Valencia, where the PP government of then-premier Francisco Camps paid Nóos close to three million euros to organize similar events between 2004 and 2006.
The exact details of the accusations against the duke have not been made public, but clearly point to misappropriation of public money, tax fraud, and breach of trust.
Urdangarin is now facing a criminal investigation that puts him at the center of allegations of corruption already involving several other people. The tax office is saying that there is clear evidence that the Nóos Institute used a range of schemes to charge different regional administrations at least half of the 15 million euros that it declared between 2003 and 2006. His being subpoenaed will be of comfort to his critics, but it will also give Urdangarin the chance to defend himself in court, and his innocence will be presumed while the case is being heard.
The royal household has reiterated its respect for the judicial process in the wake of Urdangarin's inclusion in the corruption investigations. That said, regardless of what conclusion the court reaches, the Crown has made clear that it regards Urdangarin's behavior as far from meeting the "exemplary" standards associated with the royal family. Whatever the outcome, the Crown must maintain its prestige by complying with rules of behavior that place it beyond allegations of corruption.