Spain king's son-in-law appears in court

February 25, 2012 - 11:45 AM
APTOPIX Spain Royal Family

Inaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma and the Spanish king's son-in-law, arrives at the courthouse of Palma de Mallorca on the Mediterranean resort island of Mallorca, Spain, Saturday Feb. 25, 2012. Urdangarin, husband of Princess Cristina, the second daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, will be questioned over alleged corruption. The Duke is suspected of using his high-profile status to win contracts from regional governments for a nonprofit foundation he ran, then subcontract the work to companies he also oversaw, sometimes charging the public ridiculously inflated prices and stashing at least some of the income in overseas tax havens. (AP Photo/Manu Mielniezuk)

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — The Spanish king's son-in-law was jeered by hundreds of protesters, who pelted his car with eggs as he arrived at a court Saturday to answer questions about suspected fraudulent deals.

Inaki Urdangarin — the Duke of Palma — has not been charged with a crime. But he is being questioned at the courthouse on this Mediterranean island about whether he used his high-profile status to secure lucrative deals for a nonprofit foundation he ran, then fraudulently diverted some of the money for personal gain.

The investigation into the alleged financial misdeeds has embarrassed the monarchy in a country hard hit by a financial crisis and sky-high unemployment and ranks among the worst public relations mishaps the royal household has experienced in the 36-year reign of King Juan Carlos.

As news of the investigation began to fill Spanish newspapers last year, King Juan Carlos announced in December that his son-in-law would no longer take part in official ceremonies with the rest of the family.

Urdangarin, who lives in the U.S., is a former professional and Olympic handball player who acquired his title by marrying the king's daughter, Cristina, Duchess of Palma.

On Saturday, the duke arrived at the court accompanied by his lawyer, Mario Pascual Vives, then braved a short walk in front of hundreds of jeering protesters, some carrying banners reading, "Juan Carlos, if you knew, why did you keep quiet?"

A handful of pro-monarchy supporters were also present as around 150 police kept protesters behind barriers, but two eggs hit the duke's car as it arrived and a woman in the crowd was questioned by officers.

The somber looking Urdangarin stopped before some 350 journalists from around the world that had gathered outside the court to give a brief statement before going in to be questioned by judge Jose Castro.

"I appear to demonstrate my innocence, my honor and my professional activity," he said, adding he is convinced his statements to the court would "clear up the truth."

A second day of questioning is likely Sunday.

The duke is suspected of securing large contracts from regional governments for his foundation, then subcontracting the work to private companies he also oversaw, sometimes charging the public unrealistically inflated prices and syphoning some of the income to offshore tax havens.

Newspaper El Mundo reported the revenues Urdangarin and associates are suspected of having handled may exceed euro6 million ($8 million).

The duke's alleged misdeeds took place in 2004-2006. Urdangarin, the princess and their four children moved to Washington, D.C., in 2009 as the investigation began to heat up.

The case exploded in the media late last year as Spain was buffeted by Europe's debt crisis, its economic growth grinding to a halt and already huge jobless numbers swelling.

Under Spanish law, the court will decide whether the prosecution has adequate evidence to file charges against the duke.

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Harold Heckle reported from Madrid. Daniel Woolls contributed to this report from Madrid.