Royal Trouble

Inaki Urdangarin (center), the son-in-law of Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. / REUTERS

Trouble is brewing in the royal family of Spain.

The scandal-ridden son-in-law of  King Juan Carlos has agreed to step down from his royal duties representing the Spanish crown while an investigation is underway into alleged fraud and misuse of public funds.

Inaki Urdangarin, a former handball player, married into the royal family in 1997, when he became the husband of Princess Cristina and took the title of Duke of Palma. Spanish newspapers have been filled with leaks about an investigation of Urdangarin, who has declared his innocence and not been charged.  The investigation focuses on the alleged channeling of public funds through a nonprofit foundation headed by Urdangarin and into private companies.

An article in El País, the Madrid daily, alleged that Urdangarin  took  $430,000 from the regional government of the Balearic Islands to set up a fake office to promote a cycling team sponsored by the region’s local government.

From his home in Washington, DC, Urdangarin told the Guardian, “I deeply regret the serious harm being done to my family and the royal family.”

One offshoot of the scandal is that the Spanish royal family has agreed to provide more information on how it spends its money.  It gets $8 million a year from Spanish taxpayers.

Sweep to Spain’s king blocks scandal-hit son-in-law from royal duties

The biggest case of alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act involved Siemens, AG, which paid $1.6 billion in fines to U.S. and German authorities in 2008 for an 11-year scheme to bribe officials in Argentina.

Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry Sector in North America. / REUTERS

Now that the corporation has settled with regulators, the long arm of the U.S. law has tapped eight former Siemens executives. The eight were charged on Tuesday with criminal and civil violations, stemming from a $100 million bribery scheme in Argentina. The bribes were aimed at securing a $1 billion contract for Siemens to develop identity cards for Argentina’s citizens.

The eight were charged with money laundering, conspiracy to violate U.S. anti-bribery laws, and wire fraud.  If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison.

In a conference call with reporters, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said the indictment “alleges a shocking level of deception and corruption.  Business should be won or lost on the merits of a company’s products and services, not the amount of bribes paid to government officials.”

The alleged bribery scheme took place over several years and in spite of the fact that the Argentine government terminated the identify card program.  Even so, local officials wanted their bribes – and got them, according to the indictment.

So how can the U.S. government go after a German company doing business in Argentina?  In the conference call, Breuer said that the U.S.’s jurisdictional claims were solid: $25 million of the bribes were funneled through U.S. banks, Siemens issues securities in the U.S, and many of the meetings among the defendants took place on American soil.

One outstanding practical issue:  Most of the eight defendants are currently living overseas.

Sweep to U.S. charges ex-Siemens executives in alleged bribery scheme

The report is called “Without Fear or Favour”  — a look into police corruption in the U.K. in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

The conclusion? It’s mixed. The report says that corruption is not endemic, and yet it does not give the police forces a clean bill of health.  A majority of the citizens interviewed in various parts of the country believed that corruption is not common and that police generally tell the truth.  About a third, however, felt that there was some level of corruption.

Public opinion aside, the report also found that that boundaries between the police and media are not always clear. It tallied 314 investigations of alleged improper disclosures by the police to the media over the last five years.

This is hardly the last word on a scandal that continues to shake the political and media power centers of the country.

Sweep to Police corruption report calls for tighter controls

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.