On the Christmas Eve of 2011, King Juan Carlos of Spain appeared on several national tv. channels in his traditional yearly speech of that date. This appearance used to be a mostly conventional compilation of the most relevant events of the year, as well as a somewhat fawning attempt to present the monarchy as an institution close to the citizenship. However, the 2011 edition had aroused a huge expectation due to a corruption scandal which had outburst shortly before, and whose epicentre was the King’s son-in-law: Iñaki Urdangarín.
In his speech, the King (or rather his speechwriters) was then forced to tiptoe around this extremely serious subject, only evoking it in an utterly generic manner: “Every reproachable action has to be judged and sanctioned in accordance with the law, because justice is the same for everyone”.
Iñaki Urdangarín had been an extremely successful handball player, one of the best in Europe indeed at the peak of his sports career. He had played for FC Barcelona in the years when that generation of players made of their team the best one in history, still unequalled. He was also one of the most relevant members of a Spanish national team with which he won several medals in the main international competitions. However, his true leap to fame had nothing to do with sport: it was precisely in those years when his engagement with Princess Cristina of Spain was announced. The marriage took place in Barcelona in 1997.
But let’s go back in time a little bit, as we will discover that Urdangarín’s life had not been limited to handball. He came from an influential family in the Basque Country. His father was a member of the Basque Nationalist Party, through which he achieved some highly relevant positions in public institutions and private companies. His mother was a Belgian citizen of aristocratic descent, whose elegance was often highlighted in the gossip press. So Iñaki already had in his family roots all the necessary influence to guarantee himself a comfortable economic and social position, regardless of his sports skills and his future arrival to the Spanish Royal Family.
Something absolutely remarkable (not to say “suspicious”) is how such a relevant ex-professional sportsman, with such a busy life, was able to gather so many outstanding academic qualifications: Certificate in Entrepreneurial Sciences and Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Barcelona; as well as Master in Business Start-up and MBA from the prestigious ESADE Business School, also in Barcelona. It is fair to admit though that not even Einstein would have been able to achieve that much with so little time available. But probably Einstein didn’t have the necessary contacts as a student to speed up his training so insultingly.
So here we have Iñaki Urdangarín, a handball player gifted with a superhuman intelligence only comparable to his rotten ambition. A man who provides us a perfect example of what our political and economic system has become. His personal and professional path is much more than a colossal scandal that clearly outlines the absolute ethical mediocrity of those who rule the western world; it is also a metaphor of how that system guarantees certain people the feeling that they are untouchable and possess unlimited rights.
It was during his stay in the prestigious ESADE Business School that he met Diego Torres, who was his teacher there. Long gone were already the days when universities were seen as temples of knowledge, where Ethics, Human Sciences and personal effort were considered a fundamental part in the students’ training in any discipline.
Nowadays, just like happens with so many other universities and business schools in Europe and North America, ESADE is quite far from being the Salamanca or the Uppsala of the 17th century. So the great Raphael Sanzio wouldn’t find much inspiration there to paint a new version of “The School of Athens”. The huge artificial prestige of this modern universities is only comparable to the tones of dirt and shame accumulated under their elegant carpets. And that was indeed the ideal breeding ground for Torres and Urdangarín to shape their entrepreneurial project: they both had the contacts, Torres had the theoretical knowledge and Urdangarín’s position in the Royal family guaranteed full impunity.
In the year 2003 the “Instituto Noos” begins its activities under the presidency of the Duke of Palma (Mr. Urdangarín) and with Diego Torres as his right hand man. This entity is registered as a non-profit organisation aiming at the promotion of tourism and sports related events.
It is the beginning of a shameful affair of a huge dimension that comprises political corruption, falsified documentation, tax evasion, tax havens, insider trading, misappropriation of public funds, an international network of shell companies … All of it planned with the lowest conceivable ethics: the Duke and his partner had no scruple about, for instance, creating a foundation for handicapped children (many of them suffering from cancer) as a cover to dodge the Spanish Treasury and transfer public funds to private accounts in Belice.
The name of Princess Cristina (the Duke´s wife) also appears in many documents as playing a major role in the affair, being (among other things) co-owner of several of the companies created.
In November 2011, Urdangarín and his partners were investigated for the first time as a result of their links with another enormous corruption case, and the media informed about the possibility of his being charged. The treasurer of the “Instituto Noos” (who was also the personal secretary of the Spanish princesses and employee of the Royal House) was also investigated. At this point, the Spanish Royal House issued a communiqué only stating that they did not make any comments on judicial processes.
Iñaki Urdangarín was finally officially charged on the 29th December 2011. Before that, on the 12th December, the Royal House had issued a new statement informing that Mr. Urdangarín had been excluded from any official event on the grounds that “his behaviour did not seem exemplary”. This statement was followed shortly afterwards by a deliberate leak from the Royal House to the national mass-media, largely broadcasted, according to which back in 2006 the King had ordered his son-in-law to completely give up any activities related to the “Instituto Noos”.
The royal strategy then seemed obvious: to leave Iñaki Urdangarín all alone in the middle of the storm, thus fulfilling the media demand for royal morbidity while trying to preserve the dubious honour of the Princess and the rest of the Family.
This strategy seems to have also been well accepted by the Judiciary and the main political parties: The judge who is hearing the case and the Director of Public Prosecutions have refused the possibility of charging the Princess on the grounds that “she was not aware of her husband’s activities”. The main national political parties have, for their part, nothing relevant to say on this matter, other than that they “respect the judiciary processes”, which is basically the same simple communication strategy they apply to deal with their own corruption cases.
However, all the evidence clearly proves that the Princess was not only perfectly aware of his husband’s activities, but also took an active part in them. Likewise, the King had also been aware of those activities for years without denouncing them. It seems that his sole measure in that respect was to intermediate in the nomination, in 2006, of Mr. Urdangarín as counsellor of “Telefonica International”, in an attempt to push him away of the “Instituto Noos” and cover up the scandal before it were too late. Nevertheless, his son-in-law seemed not to have been especially impressed by the royal authority, as he maintained his former activities making them compatible with his newly-gained position in Telefonica. This led to a new more radical royal decision: in 2009, Mr. Urdangarín was named President of the Public Affairs Commission of Telefonica for Latin-America and the USA, moving his and his wife’s residence to Washington.
It is also interesting to ascertain how being an outstanding delinquent is perfectly compatible with holding some major honorary appointments: Iñaki Urdangarín is “Honorary President of the Interactive Generations Forum”, formed by Telefonica, the University of Navarre and the Inter-American University Council. His wife, Princess Cristina, holds a major position in the Social Service area of La Caixa, one of the main Spanish savings banks, entities reputed for their propensity towards corruption and social abuse.
In the midst of this great scandal, no member of the Royal Family seems to have anything relevant to say, apart from Mr. Urdangarín’s stupid attorney and spokesman, whose extraordinary fees are paid with our public money.
But, what really matters is: do we –the Spanish population- have anything relevant to say? I hope so… because there is indeed a lot we have to say and do in order to clean our country off this false democracy which should rather be called “anonymous dictatorship”. Only that dictators always have names, no matter how hard they try to hide themselves. And they can be kings, presidents, ministers, bankers or CEOs.