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INAKI URDANGARIN

King’s relatives linked to major crime ring

Three distant relatives of Spain's 75-year-old King Juan Carlos have been been placed under investigation by a judge on suspicion of links to a Chinese mafia money laundering scandal, a judicial source said on Monday.

King's relatives linked to major crime ring
The three relatives of the king allegedely had links with Madrid-based Chinese businessman Gao Ping, who headed up a ring that laundered up to €300,000 a year. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

In Spain's latest corruption case, 13 people, who are being probed on suspicion of money laundering and an offence against the Public Treasury, started appearing before a judge at the National Court in Madrid on Monday, said the judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The three relatives of the king are among the 13, said a source at the prosecutors' office, who also declined to be identified.

The three royal relations are Maria Margarita and Maria Inmaculada Borbon Dos Sicilias Lubomiska, elderly cousins of the king's late mother, both of whom have had their appearances suspended for medical reasons, as well as Maria Inmaculada's daughter Maria Ilia Garcia de Saez, who is expected to appear before the judge on Tuesday, the prosecutorial source said.

All three are suspected of receiving money from the Chinese mafia-style ring.

Their names were first mentioned in association with the crime ring in December 2012.

Gao Ping, a Chinese businessman and art gallery owner, is accused of running a network that laundered hundreds of millions of euros in Spain.

He was arrested along with 80 others in October in a Spanish police operation dubbed Emperor that mobilized 500 officers and led to the seizure of €10 million in cash, 200 vehicles, firearms, jewels and works of art.

Gao Ping was freed November 29 along with 11 others as a result of a procedural problem related to their detention before being sent back to jail in April by a judge.

King Juan Carlos has been embarrassed by a corruption scandal implicating his youngest daughter Cristina, whose tax affairs are being probed by a judge, and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, who has been under investigation since late 2011 for alleged embezzlement.

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CORRUPTION

Spain king’s brother-in-law might not have to go to jail after all

The brother-in-law of Spain's king, who was handed six years and three months jail for syphoning off millions, will remain free and not be required to post bail as he prepares to appeal his sentence, a court said on Thursday.

Spain king's brother-in-law might not have to go to jail after all
Inaki Urdangarin arrives to the courthouse in Palma de Mallorca on February 23rd 2017. Photo: AFP

the news made waves in Spain, where the corruption scandal involving Inaki Urdangarin sparked outrage at a time when the country was going through a devastating crisis, becoming a symbol of the elite's perceived corruption.

The decision by a court in Palma on the island of Majorca came in response to a request from prosecutors that Urdangarin be allowed to remain temporarily free if he pays bail of 200,000 euros ($211,000), rather than go straight to prison.

The court also said Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player who is married to Spain's Princess Cristina, could stay in Switzerland where he currently lives with his wife and their four children until all possible appeals are exhausted.

When the 49-year-old left the court, angry protesters shouted “chorizo” at him, a word that literally refers to a spicy Spanish sausage but also means “thief”.

Cristina had also been accused of involvement in the scandal over her husband's business dealings while he was head of the Noos Institute, a not-for-profit sports foundation, on suspicion of helping him evade taxes.

But on Friday, following a long-running and high-profile trial, she was acquitted.

Her husband though was sentenced to jail for using his royal connections to win inflated public contracts to stage sporting and other events, and then syphoning off the proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle.

The fact that both stood trial was seen as unprecedented in a country that had long protected its elites.

And when Urdangarin was handed the sentence, newspapers started speculating as to what prison conditions could be like for the former Duke of Palma.

The court said however that while Urdangarin would remain free during the appeal process, he would have to check into a Swiss court every month, and report any trips out of the European Union as well as any residency change.

'Injustice'

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain's far-left Podemos party, reacted angrily to the news, saying “injustice is different for everyone”.

“Songs will be written about his sentence and their authors will be condemned,” he tweeted.

He was referring to this week's much-talked-about sentencing of Spanish rapper Valtonyc, handed three-and-a-half years in prison for songs that were deemed to insult the crown and apologise for terrorism via references to Basque separatist group ETA.

Iglesias was not the only critic to draw angry parallels between Valtonyc's sentence, seen by some as a breach of freedom of expression, and Urdangarin's temporary reprieve for syphoning of millions of euros.

“A rapper in jail for singing a song about the king whose brother-in-law won't go to prison for stealing,” tweeted journalist Hibai Arbide Aza.

Urdangarin's lawyers have until February 28th to launch an appeal against his sentence.

If they do, the Supreme Court will then need several months to make a final ruling on a case that has shamed the royal family.It soured the last years of the reign of king Juan Carlos, who gave up the throne in June 2014 after 39 years, hoping his son Felipe VI who replaced him could freshen up the image of the monarchy.

Since it erupted, Urdangarin and Cristina have been excluded from all of the family's official public appearances.

King Felipe VI also stripped them of their titles of duchess and duke of Palma.

By Laurence Boutreaux

READ ALSO: Princess Cristina acquitted in royal fraud trial but husband jailed