The Spanish court has been told new details about Spain’s Infanta Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin.
A co-defendant, José Luis Ballester, an Olympic gold-medal-winning sailor, said that despite being longtime friends with the royal couple he felt “used” by them. Princess Cristina met Ballester in the early 1990s. He added that he felt he was obliged to help the brother-in-law of Spain’s king after he became the Balearic Island government’s director of sport from 2003-2007
Ballester is charged with embezzlement, fraud, breach of duty and influence peddling.
“As time passes, you realise that you are just a small instrument, so maybe I was used,” Ballester recalled when asked if he had been deceived or used by Mr Urdangarin as a way of obtaining traction with the regional administration.
Princess Cristina, sister of King Felipe, and Iñaki Urdangarin sat among the 17 accused in the corruption trial where the royal couple have been accused of conspire with public officials and politicians to defraud taxpayers of over five million euros.
Ballester continued to speak of the couple, who were watching, noting that Urdangarin easily supported the non-profit Nóos Institute and was awarded public contracts without a formal process.
According to Ballester in 2003, he, Urgangarin and Jaume Matas, the current Popular Party leader of the Balearic government at the time, spoke of business over a beer and paddle tennis at the Marivent Palace in Palma.
Urgangarin brought up the idea that a cycling team should be sponsored by the regional government suggesting the Illes Balears-Banesto team, and that Nóos should be paid €300,000 to set up a “project office” in order to follow up on the sponsorship. Ballester said
“Mr Matas told me to go ahead,
“Nobody expressed any doubt about the contract. The budget for €300,000 was prepared and we were all given the order”.
Ballester later explained that the role of “project office” was no clear and that his department was slow on a payment report Nóos was meant to deliver.
Ballester said Urdangarin demanded the payment in 2007, even though he officially left the Nóos foundation in 2006.
“They hadn’t done the work, the strategic plan they wanted to bill us for did not exist,” Ballester said and that Matas later told him to pay up in any case.
Princess Cristina may face up to eight years in prison on two separate counts of being an accomplice to tax fraud by her husband.
The public prosecutor has requested a sentence of 19.5 years for her husband, Urdangarin.
Cristina is accused of using the money from the account to cover personal expenses.
The trial has taken a toll of the Royal Family, with King Felipe cancelling his planned State Visit to the U.K later this year.