Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Trial begins in giant Spanish corruption scandal

21:40 |


top Spanish former official went on trial Monday at the start of legal proceedings into a raft of corruption scandals in which King Juan Carlos' son-in-law is also accused. Jaume Matas, the ex-head of the regional government of the Balearic islands who had also served as environment minister, appeared at a court in Palma de Majorca alongside three other suspects. They have been charged with embezzlement, fraud, falsifying documents and influence peddling. Matas was charged in March 2010 and was released after paying a record bail of 3.0 million euros ($3.8 million). Prosecutors are demanding an eight and a half years jail term. Matas served as president of the government of the Balearic Islands between 1996-1999 and then between 2003-2007. He was environment minister between 2000-2003. The so-called "Palma Arena affair" as the Spanish press has dubbed the corruption scandal centres on the suspected embezzlement of public funds during the construction of a velodrome in Palma de Majorca between 2005-2007. An investigation concluded that the cycling track had an unjustified cost overrun of 41 million euros. That led authorities on the archipelago to uncover other cases of suspected embezzlement of public funds, including one allegedly involving royal son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin. The 43-year-old ex-Olympic handball player is scheduled to appear in court on February 25 as part of a probe into corruption at a non-profit organisation, Instituto Noos, which he headed between 2004 and 2006. The probe centres notably on a payment of 2.3 million euros to Instituto Noos for organising a tourism and sports conference in 2005 and 2006. Urdangarin, who has the title Duke of Palma and is married to the king's youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, has denied any wrongdoing. Last month the royal family suspended the the duke from official engagements and the palace's highest official, Rafael Spottorno, gave an unprecedented rebuke, telling Spanish media his behaviour "does not seem exemplary".

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