Palma.— “Urdangarin, go work in a Burger King” read one of the banners which greeted King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain when they inaugurated a new power centre in Bilbao earlier this week in reference to the pending court appearance of the Duke of Palma, Iñaki Urdangarin in Palma this Saturday. The local republican movement are planning an anti-monarchy protest outside the court house on the Avenidas where bars are opening extra early to cash in on the 200-plus members of the global media and scores of people who are expected to ring the court house to either voice their support or anger at the Duke. Owners of properties overlooking the courts have rented out their balconies to the TV channels for over 1'500 euros while the police are planning a major security operation.

It appears that the Duke, unlike the rest of those being questioned, will be driven round to the rear entrance instead of being made to walk through the front doors, but the security services are being very coy about the exact security operation.

Yesterday, King Juan Carlos, presiding over the swearing in of 186 new judges, pledged the monarchy's full support for the judiciary and repeated that, according to the Constitution, it is only the judiciary which has the “exclusive right” to pass judgement.

The king himself made a thinly veiled reference to the case when he said in his Christmas speech that ‘'any reprehensible act should be tried and punished in accordance with law''. Some monarchists are angry that the Duke has been tried by the media, but it will be up to judge Castro to decided if the Duke, 44, is guilty of the alleged embezzlement of millions of euros of government funds through a non-profit organisation of which he was co-director between 2004 and 2006.

Last week the court heard allegations of false accounting and tax evasion by the Noos Institute, and smaller companies under its umbrella as business associates of the duke, themselves under suspicion, were called to testify.

Prosecutors believe up to 5.8 million euros, over two million of which apparently came from the Balearic government, could have been misappropriated and have uncovered evidence of funds apparently having been siphoned away to offshore accounts in Belize, Luxembourg and Britain.

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