The case surrounding Inaki Urdangarin, husband of the king’s daughter Cristina, has been front-page news for weeks and a public relations nightmare for the royal family, coming at a time of acute economic crisis in Spain.
But the situation worsened yesterday when Judge Jose Castro on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca named Urdangarin as a formal suspect in a criminal probe.
The Balearic Islands’ Superior Court of Justice said Urdangarin is to testify on February 6 in Palma.
Urdangarin is suspected of siphoning money from public contracts awarded from 2004 to 2006 to a non-profit foundation he headed.
A Royal Palace official declined comment other than to say it “respects the decisions of judges”.
Spain has nearly 22 per cent unemployment, a stagnant economy, and mountains of debt, so alleged shady business dealings by a member of the royal family look terrible for the Spanish monarchy. On December 12 the Royal Palace shocked the country by announcing Urdangarin would, for now, stop taking part in official royal ceremonies.
And in an unprecedented show of transparency, the palace this week published details of the stipend the royal family receives from the national budget. King Juan Carlos earns 292,552 euros (£244,600) a year in salary and expenses and his son, Crown Prince Felipe, roughly half that.
In his yearly Christmas Eve speech, the king expressed concern over what he described as the declining confidence among Spaniards in public institutions, a remark seen as a reference to the scandal surrounding his son-in-law, a commoner who used to be a professional handball player.
Spanish newspapers have quoted investigators as saying Urdangarin is suspected, among other things, of having taken some of about six million euros (£5m) his non-profit foundation received from the regional governments in Valencia and the Balearic Islands for organising events such as sports seminars and diverting it to for-profit companies Urdangarin ran. Since 2009 Urdangarin, the princess and their four children have lived in Washington, DC, where he works for the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica.