THE LONG-AWAITED court hearing of King Felipe's brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarín began on Friday, in which the former director of the Nóos Institute denied all charges.
Accused of public fund embezzlement along with the Institute's co-owner, Diego Torres, the husband of the Infanta Cristina – Felipe VI's youngest sister – was as evasive as possible during his interrogation.
The Nóos was set up as a non-profit entity to organise sports, arts and entertainment events in the regions of Valencia and the Balearic Islands, but Urdangarín and Torres are said to have artificially inflated their costs in order to benefit from even greater sums of taxpayers' money, and pocketed the difference.
Whether this was done with the knowledge and consent of the two regional governments is not clear, but various officials – who belong to the PP party – have already testified or are scheduled to do so.
To account for the funds, Urdangarín set up the estate agency company, Aizoon, S.L., which he owned jointly with the Infanta Cristina and which had no known activity.
He billed the firm for his 'management consultant activities', enabling him to launder the cash earned through the Nóos Institute.
Aizoon had a number of staff members on the payroll who, in fact, are thought to be the couple's domestic cleaning and housekeeping employees or even friends.
They were stripped of their titles of Duke and Duchess of Palma by the latter's own brother last year.
Accountant Antonio Tejeiro revealed he had been asked to carry out 'dubious transactions' including drawing up fake payslips.
And Diego Torres passed the buck to his brother-in-law Miguel Tejeiro, the Nóos Institute's former secretary, saying the latter had dealt with all the finance and tax management.
Torres claimed the Royal Household had fully supported and even supervised the Institute's activities, with the now-abdicated King Juan Carlos I's extra-marital lover, Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein of Germany, having suggested they open a company in the UK.
In the second part of Torres' hearing, he referred to the Royals as having 'controlled', rather than 'supervised' or 'supported', the Nóos' work.
Urdangarín's hearing has been eagerly followed by the whole of Spain, although he answered most questions with 'I don't know', 'I don't remember', or 'that wasn't my department'.
The ex-Duke says he 'did not know the staff' at Aizoon, because employee and payroll matters were Miguel Tejeiro's job.
Neither did he apparently know anything about invoicing or estimates.
“I don't understand anything about matters like that,” claimed Urdangarín.
He hinted that his signature may have been forged on certain papers – including the one shown to him in the courtroom by prosecutor Pedro Horrach.
“I don't know who might have been acting in my name,” the former Royal argued.
But the paper in question referred to the Balearic cycling team, managed by Juan Pablo Molinero.
“That's not my signature,” Urdangarín claimed several times.
“I left the Nóos Institute without a single piece of paper, and I can't remember everything I did in my career in detail.”
He remembered certain points when shown papers, but said he could not place many of the documents.
Urdangarín and Torres had 'different approaches' but were 'compatible working together', the accused said.
He argued that only after Aizoon had disbanded did he learn there were 'three types of employee' in the firm – 'the normal ones', 'maintenance workers' and 'several more' whom he 'didn't know' – although he did not confirm they may not have existed in the first place.
“In the Nóos Institute, there were staff members who worked for various different firms, although I don't know how many, and they worked on different projects, but the Institute was an association of professionals,” Urdangarín went on.
He tried to explain that the Institute 'had associates, not employees' and that this was why invoices were issued to Nóos Strategic Consulting – denying the prosecution's description of these as 'employing yourself' – and adding that he 'didn't know much about invoices relating to contracts' signed by the Institute, saying he 'did not deal with that'.
This was Urdangarín's response to the question of why, out of the total of €900,000 paid from Valencia regional government public funds to host the Valencia Summit, the sum of €714,000 ended up in the account held by Nóos Strategic Consulting, which Urdangarín owned.
Neither was he able to offer a clear explanation about the invoices between the Nóos Institute and Aizoon.
“I've never done the negotiating on any estimates,” the accused insisted.
Based upon the former Balearic president – also charged in the case - Jaume Matas' claims the Nóos was given illegal commission as part of its exclusive sponsorship management of the Banesto cycling team, Urdangarín said this one-track project administration was 'to make sure everything could be done as well as possible'.
“I don't know how [Matas] could have said that, because I've never earned anything on commission,” Urdangarín responded.
Prosecutor Pedro Horrach has always been against the Infanta Cristina's having been charged and facing trial, insisting she was being made an example of because of 'who she is'.
Part of his questioning was aimed at clearing her name.
He showed Urdangarín emails presented in court by the far-right campaign group Manos Limpias ('clean hands'), which has brought a private prosecution against the Infanta – the only prosecution, in fact, she is facing.
Horrach, showing Urdangarín the emails, asked: “Is Kit your wife?”
To which Urdangarín responded in the affirmative, saying 'Kit' was a 'pet name' for her.
Horrach wanted to know whether Urdangarín had 'discussed clearly' the Nóos and Aizoon's financial and tax matters with his wife – a question which caused an objection, later overruled, to be raised.
Next, Horrach presented an email which Urdangarín had sent to former Royal Household manager Carlos García Revenga asking whether his activities with the Nóos presented a 'conflict of interest'.
Throughout the interrogation, Urdangarín merely repeated that he had never had any involvement in accounting, tax affairs, finances, estimates or invoices, and that he 'did not understand' anything about such matters.
His vague responses, centred on his ignorance of crucial functions of his two firms, reflect those given by his wife during her preliminary hearing – in her capacity as witness, at the time – when she maintained she had no intricate knowledge of Aizoon's dealings and merely 'signed what her husband told her to sign' because she 'loved and trusted' him.
The trial will reconvene at 09.15hrs on Wednesday, March 2, when Iñaki Urdangarín will be quizzed for a second time by Horrach.
Urdangarín's wife will be the last of the accused parties to testify, when she will make history by becoming the first-ever Royal by birth rather than marriage to have appeared in the dock.