The king of Spain's son-in-law was subpoenaed Thursday in a fraud and embezzlement case that has deepened a public relations nightmare for the country's royal family at a time of acute economic crisis for everyday people.
A judge ordered Inaki Urdangarin, husband of the king's younger daughter, Cristina, to testify as a suspect in a corruption case that has been front-page news for weeks.
Judge Jose Castro on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca did not specify the exact allegations against Urdangarin, who is the duke of Palma and a retired Olympic handball player.
It ordered him to testify in an investigation into alleged misuse of millions of euros in public funds at his non-profit Noos Institute, which he ran from 2004 to 2006.
Urdangarin has denied wrongdoing, but he apologized publicly this month for the embarrassment his legal problems were causing the royal family, which he said had nothing to do with his business affairs.
The investigation found evidence of misuse of public funds, forgery and fraud in 2003 to 2006, a period when Noos had income of 15 million euros ($19.4 million), according to local press reports.
They said Noos organized two tourism conferences for the Balearic Islands, charging 2.3 million euros, and channeled more than half of that money to for-profit companies owned by Urdangarin or his business partners, for items such as logistical support.
The same pattern was detected in sports summits staged in Valencia. The probe also found that Urdangarin's companies were not able to justify the payments, the press reports said.
An official at the Royal Palace declined comment Thursday other than to say it "respects the decisions of judges."
Spain has nearly 22 percent unemployment, a stagnant economy, mountains of debt and many other woes, so alleged shady business dealings by a member of the royal family look terrible for the Spanish monarchy.
On Dec. 12 the Royal Palace shocked the country by announcing Urdangarin would for the time being stop taking part in official ceremonies involving the royal family.
And in an unprecedented show of transparency, the palace this week made public the details of the stipend the royal family receives from the national budget. It said, for instance, that King Juan Carlos earns €292,552 ($382,597) a year in salary and expenses and his son, Crown Prince Felipe, roughly half that amount.
Since 2009 Urdangarin, the princess and their four children have lived in Washington, D.C., where Urdangarin works for the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, S.A.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia have three children. Crown Prince Felipe is the youngest, Princess Cristina is the middle child and the eldest is Princess Elena.