A Spanish court has sentenced the king’s brother-in-law to six years and three months in jail, delivering a harsh blow to the standing of the monarchy at the end of a long-running criminal trial that has captivated the nation.
Iñaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player and the husband of Princess Cristina, was found guilty of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and a range of other charges. The prosecution had called for a sentence of 19 years and six months.
Princess Cristina, the sister of King Felipe VI and another defendant in the sprawling case, was acquitted of all criminal charges, but ordered to pay a civil fine of €265,000. Unlike her husband, she faced only lesser charges of tax fraud, and stood trial against the express recommendation of the public prosecutor.
The accusations date back to Mr Urdangarin’s time as co-director of a supposedly not-for-profit “institute” that organised sporting and tourism-related events. He and his business partner, Diego Torres, were found guilty of siphoning off millions of euros of public funds by overcharging regional governments for their services.
Mr Torres was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison. Jaume Matas, the former regional president of Mallorca and another key figure in the trial, received a sentence of three years and eight months in jail.
The case surfaced at the height of Spain’s recent financial crisis, and came to be seen as emblematic of the broader failings of the country’s elite during the pre-recession boom years. It was the first time that a member of Spain’s royal family had to stand trial for alleged criminal wrong-doing, tarnishing the monarchy at an already difficult time. The case is widely believed to have played a key role in persuading Juan Carlos, the former king, to abdicate in 2014 and make way for his son.
Friday’s ruling was the first in a string of high-profile court decisions expected this year that deal with alleged criminal behaviour by leading politicians, bankers and other public figures in Spain. Earlier this week, the country’s highest criminal court launched a formal criminal probe against the former heads of the central bank and stock market regulator, over allegations that they failed to stop the financially disastrous flotation of Bankia.
The financial group was listed on the Madrid stock market in 2011, but had to be rescued by the state less than a yeat later, causing wide-spread financial losses among retail investors. Rodrigo Rato, the former Bankia chairman and ex-head of the IMF, is another high-profile defendant in multiple criminal trials that are expected to come to a conclusion this year.