Spanish king distances himself from son-in-law

December 12, 2011 - 8:15 AM

MADRID (AP) — King Juan Carlos's son-in-law will stop taking part in official ceremonies because of business dealings that are under investigation, Spain's Royal Palace said Monday as it sought to dissipate a whiff of scandal.

The decision regarding Inaki Urdangarin, husband of the monarch's daughter Princess Cristina, was a mutual one made by Urdangarin and the Royal Palace, its chief of staff Rafael Spottorno said in a rare meeting with Spanish media.

Urdangarin, 43, is reportedly suspected of siphoning away funds from public contracts awarded from 2004 to 2006 to a non-profit foundation he then headed.

The allegation looks terrible for the royal family at a time of acute hardship and economic crisis in Spain, where unemployment stands at 21.5 percent.

Urdangarin has not been charged with a crime. He issued a statement Saturday saying he regrets the "damage" the case is doing to the royal family but admitted no wrongdoing.

Spottorno insisted on presumption of innocence and urged investigators to conclude their probe soon as he announced Urdangarin will for now be removed from the royal family's agenda and no longer attend any official ceremonies involving it.

Spottorno said it was not yet known if the princess would also stay away from such activities.

The couple and their four children now live in Washington, D.C., where Urdangarin works for Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, S.A.

No court papers have been made public, but Spanish newspapers quote investigators as saying Urdangarin is suspected of having taking part of about euro6 million ($8 million) the foundation received from the regional governments in Valencia and the Balearic Islands for organizing events such as sports seminars.

The money is said to have gone to for-profit companies Urdangarin ran.

The case is part of a broader, long-running corruption probe involving the regional government in the Balearic Islands, the capital of which is Palma on the island of Mallorca.

The Urdangarin slice of it has been front-page news for the past two weeks, and forced the Royal Palace to take the rare step of addressing publicly the activities of one of its members.

Spottorno also said that by the end of the month, the Royal Palace website will publish a breakdown of the money earmarked for the family in the government budget. In 2011, it was euro8.43 million.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia have three children. Crown Prince Felipe is the youngest, Princess Cristina is the middle child and the eldest is Princess Elena.