Saturday, February 18, 2017

Not guilty

From El Pais.

Cristina de Borbón, sister of Spanish King Felipe VI, has been acquitted of tax fraud complicity in a high-profile corruption trial known as the Nóos case.

Her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, considered one of the masterminds behind a scheme that obtained no-bid contracts from regional governments, has been sentenced to six years and three months in prison.

He has been found guilty of embezzlement, fraud, influence peddling and tax crimes. The court has also demanded that he pay a €512,000 fine.

Although Cristina de Borbón has been cleared of the criminal charges against her, she will have to pay a fine of €265,088 for her role in the scheme. The royal was never charged by either public prosecutors or tax authorities, but rather on the basis of a private prosecution.

Urdangarin and his former business partner Diego Torres were behind the scheme that secured over €6 million in public contracts won for organising sports and tourism events. 

The contracts were obtained through no-bid awards that favoured a non-profit foundation called Instituto Nóos, run by the partners. Urdangarin allegedly leveraged his position as a member of the royal family to open doors within regional government structures.

Cristina allegedly used an Aizoon credit card to make personal purchases – including dance lessons and children’s clothing – then claimed tax deductions on her 2007 and 2008 filings.

The charges against the king’s sister were not brought by state prosecutors or by tax authorities, but by a private prosecution by a far-right anti-corruption group called Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), which has since been dismantled after its leader Miguel Bernad was arrested. Investigators found that Bernad had tried to extort the royal’s defense lawyers for a €3 million payment in exchange for dropping the charges against her.

The case further damaged the royal family's image and is thought to be partly the cause of Juan Carlos' decision to abdicate the throne in June 2014 in flavor of his son Felipe.

The Nóos case, while large in itself, is merely an offshoot of a much wider probe into the construction of a sports arena in Palma de Mallorca that has already resulted in a criminal conviction for Jaume Matas.

The Palma Arena case, which put the spotlight on political corruption in the popular Mediterranean island archipelago, has been broken down into 28 separate sections, of which Nóos is the 25th.

The story of graft and patronage in the Balearics feeds into other high-profile corruption cases in Spain, among them Gürtel, whose leaders were recently sent to prison for bribing officials in Valencia in exchange for government contracts.

So, even the people who brought the charges against the Princess were guilty of corruption. It makes you wonder if there is anybody of authority in Spain who is not corrupt.

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