Royal Pain in Spain as King's Son-in-law Faces Court Hearing

Inaki Urdangarin has not been charged with a crime, but is being questioned about whether he used his status to secure lucrative deals for his nonprofit foundation, and fraudulently diverted the money.

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain - The King of Spain's son-in-law was jeered by hundreds of protesters yesterday, some pelting his car with eggs as he arrived at a court to answer questions about suspected fraudulent deals.

Inaki Urdangarin - the Duke of Palma - has not been charged with a crime. But he is being questioned about whether he used his high-profile status to secure lucrative deals for a nonprofit foundation he ran, then fraudulently diverted some of the money for personal gain.

Spain Protest - Reuters - February 2012

The investigation into the alleged financial misdeeds has embarrassed the monarchy in a country hard hit by financial woes and sky-high unemployment. It ranks among the worst PR mishaps the royal household has experienced in the 36-year reign of King Juan Carlos.

As news of the investigation began to fill Spanish newspapers last year, the king announced in December that his son-in-law would no longer take part in official ceremonies with the rest of the family.

Urdangarin, who lives in the United States, is a former professional and Olympic handball player who acquired his title by marrying the king's daughter, Cristina, Duchess of Palma.

The duke arrived at the court yesterday accompanied by his lawyer, then braved a short walk in front of hundreds of jeering protesters, some carrying banners reading, "Juan Carlos, if you knew, why did you keep quiet?"

A handful of pro-monarchy supporters were also present, as around 150 police kept protesters behind barriers. But two eggs hit the duke's car as it arrived. A woman in the crowd was questioned by officers.

The somber-looking Urdangarin stopped before some 350 journalists from around the world outside the court to give a brief statement before going in to be questioned.

"I appear to demonstrate my innocence, my honor and my professional activity," he said, adding he is convinced his court statements would "clear up the truth."

A second day of questioning is likely today.

The duke is suspected of securing large contracts from regional governments for his foundation, then subcontracting the work to private companies he also oversaw, sometimes charging the public unrealistically inflated prices and siphoning some of the income to offshore tax havens.

The court will decide whether the prosecution has adequate evidence to file charges against the duke.