With their faces covered by the mask, wrapped in winter clothing and in broad daylight, many men in Vitoria look like Iñaki Urdangarin: tall, stocky, wearing a wool sailor hat and padded thermal jackets, they move around this green city by bicycle, the second with the most bike lanes in Spain, and considered one of those with the best quality of life in the country. However, at one in the afternoon last Friday in the Plaza de los Fueros there is not the slightest doubt: the five cameras and six journalists who have been milling around portal number 13 since Wednesday, which houses Imaz & Asociados, the consultancy where he has been working since May, await the former Duke of Palma. Picking up his bike, they corner him, but he doesn’t say anything. Already on Thursday he pronounced a phrase that sounded like a confirmation: “These are things that happen.” Too much commotion for a city of 250,000 inhabitants that likes to comment on what happens in it, but without it being so noticeable.
“When it became known that this boy was going to marry the Infanta Cristina, we dedicated ourselves to looking at the borders of his promotion to locate those who had gone to class with him,” says a former classmate from the religious school where Urdangarin studied. Now, however, those who search the fringes are the former colleagues of Ainhoa Armentia, the 43-year-old from Vitoria with whom he was photographed hand in hand when he was walking through Bidart, in the French Basque Country (who acquired the photos for their publication did not have wanted to reveal to this newspaper its cost or who the seller was).
The news has taken Cristina de Borbón, who visited her in-laws last Christmas, by surprise, according to sources close to the Casa del Rey. But who is even less accustomed to this media commotion is Armentia, who until just a few days ago was simply an anonymous accountant whose entire career had taken place in the same city where she married in 2003 and had two children, who are minors. His background and life experience could not be more different from those of Urdangarin. “This was a very humble neighborhood at the time. So now don’t go posh,” says an old colleague from San Ignacio, the public school where she attended EGB, located in Adurza, an industrial area with flats typical of 1960s developmentalism where the BH bicycle factory and the Fournier deck factory; a place far removed from the stately atmosphere of groves and Indiano palaces that surrounds the house of the Urdangarin matriarch, Claire Liebaert.
Liebaert’s delicate state of health has been one of the reasons why his young son, Iñaki, sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison for the Noos case, has been installed with it. Since March, Urdangarin has enjoyed the third degree of prison under telematic control, one of the most benevolent semi-freedoms (he can sleep outside prison, subject to sporadic face-to-face and telephone controls). Taking care of her mother has allowed her to continue her reintegration process by working at an accounting firm whose partners have a good relationship with the family. In this context, the residents of Vitoria quickly got used to seeing him come and go: “I meet him every morning when I go for a walk with the dog. Has he ever stopped to make a monkey out of him, the truth is that he is a very nice and very normal guy, ”explains a neighbor.
That normality is what Urdangarin also tried to bring to his new daily life: “He started coming a lot to swim during the week. We talked with laughter about the good shape he was in, ”says a member of the Stadium, the select club chaired by Mikel Urdangarin, older brother of the former Duke, at the foot of one of the swimming pools in the sports complex. However, the ease with which he moved around the city during working hours with the excuse that he was teleworking meant that Penitentiary Institutions advised him to go to the office in person, where he met Ainhoa Armentia, a married woman whose marriage It was not going well, but she continued to reside with her husband in an apartment located a few meters from the children’s school.
A swarm of cameras and reporters, despite the frigid temperatures, has waited this week for long hours at the gates of the consultancy to collect statements from Urdangarin and Armentia. The monumental media commotion has made the director of the consultancy doubt the wisdom of the decision to sign the former duke, according to sources close to him, something he did as a personal favor to the family. Urdangarin is four months away from serving two-thirds of his sentence, a turning point that may be important in his future prison, since from that moment on he can aspire to early parole. If granted, he would finish serving his sentence, which will expire on April 9, 2024, with total freedom of movement and even lighter controls.
In the consultancy they do not clarify if they have spoken with him about his imminent job future, but prison sources explain that, even if he left the firm, Urdangarin would retain the semi-liberty regime until he finds another job. Something that, in principle, would not cost him, given that the family, whose patriarch presided over the Caja Vital, is very influential in the city. The biggest problem, perhaps, is surviving the media and social harassment of the couple that no favor can stop.
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The new life of Iñaki Urdangarin