KING Felipe’s brother-in-law Iñaki Urdangarín has announced he will appeal his six-year, three-month prison sentence for public fund embezzlement and tax fraud – even though this carries the risk of his being jailed for even longer.
Urdangarín’s solicitor, Pascual Vives, says he has been ‘convinced for years’ that his blue-chip client would not have to go to prison, even though prosecutor Pedro Horrach refused to negotiate any deal that would reduce the sentence to less than two years, the minimum for a custodial term to be served for a first offence.
The husband of Felipe VI’s youngest sister, the Infanta Cristina, was found guilty of inflating invoices and estimates for organising sports, arts and entertainment events through his so-called ‘non-profit’ association, the Nóos Institute, and laundering the proceeds through the dormant company he owned jointly with his wife, Aizoon.
Cristina escaped jail for tax evasion by offsetting household expenses against Aizoon, having claimed she simply ‘signed what her husband told her to’ because she ‘trusted him’, but still has to pay a €265,000 fine on top of the unpaid duties she has since refunded.
Urdangarín’s Nóos Institute co-director Diego Torres has been sentenced to eight-and-a-half years.
The verdict is largely considered very lenient, since Urdangarín and Torres were facing between 19 and 26 years in prison, but the former still wants to appeal.
Vives says he is ‘aware of the risk’ that the higher court may uphold the initial decision and possibly lengthen the sentence, but that it is one his client is willing to take.
At the very least, it may stall for time and buy Urdangarín a few more months or even years of freedom.
As yet, the judge has not ordered Urdangarín and Torres to go straight to prison, which he is entitled to do, and it was rumoured yesterday that they may be offered bail.
Former Balearic Island regional president Jaume Matas, who is believed to have contracted the Nóos Institute to organise the IB Forum sports and tourism fairs in 2005 and 2006 in full knowledge of the scam, has also been been sentenced, but is already serving a custodial term for corruption offences.
The regional government is planning to sue the Nóos bosses for the overpaid €2.3 million for organising the IB Forum.
In total, Urdangarín and Torres are said to have pocketed €6.1m in public funds in excess of the true costs of their work.