Spanish king's brother-in-law turns himself in to serve prison sentence

MADRID (Reuters) - The brother-in-law of Spain’s king turned himself in to authorities on Monday to serve nearly six years in jail for crimes including tax fraud and embezzlement, a prison spokesman said.

FILE PHOTO: Inaki Urdangarin, Spain's King Felipe's brother-in-law, leaves court after picking up his prison sentence notification in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Enrique Calvo/File Photo

Inaki Urdangarin signed himself into the Brieva prison in Avila at around 8:00 am (0600 GMT). He had been given a five-day deadline last Tuesday to appear at a penal institution of his choosing for the five-year 10-month sentence.

The 162-cell mostly-woman’s prison has a small separate area for men and was chosen for its proximity to Madrid to ease visits by his wife, Princess Cristina who is the sister of King Felipe VI, newspaper El Pais reported.

Urdangarin was found guilty in February last year of using royal connections to win public contracts to put on events through his non-profit organization, the Noos Foundation. He then overcharged for the events and hid millions of euros in proceeds abroad.

Princess Cristina, who lives in Geneva with their four children, was acquitted of being an accessory to tax fraud after a year-long trial of 18 defendants in the probe of the charity run by her husband.

Cristina was the first member of the Spanish royal family ever to stand in a dock.

Some of the foundation’s money was shown to be transferred to a private company and used to pay for family holidays, home furnishings and theater tickets.

Public support for the Spanish royal family waned during the around five-year economic slump but it slumped after it emerged that then-King Juan Carlos had gone on an elephant-hunting expedition in Botswana at the height of the crisis.

Juan Carlos, 80, abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son Felipe, 50.

When he ascended the throne and as part of efforts to modernize the monarchy, King Felipe removed his elder sisters, Elena and Cristina, from royal duties. The following year he stripped Cristina of her title of Duchess of Palma.

Urdangarin, a retired Spanish handball player, appealed the sentence before the Supreme Court, which cut the sentence slightly after overturning a part of the original ruling by the Mallorcan Court.

He may appeal the Supreme Court’s ruling before the Constitutional Court.

Reporting by Raquel Castillo; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg