Spanish princess to face fraud trial
Palma de Mallorca, where the trial is taking place. Source: Pixabay
Princess Cristina of Spain will face tax fraud charges next month after a court turned down an attempt to exempt her from a corruption case that has damaged the monarchy’s credibility.
She will appear in February alongside 17 defendants to answer charges that her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, and his business partners embezzled about 6 million euros (US$6.5 million) that regional authorities disguised as sports events.
The 50-year-old sister of King Felipe IV faces prosecution following a six-year investigation into the Nóos Foundation, a charity run by her husband, who is also on trial. She denies any wrongdoing.
Urdangarin, 48, formerly the Duke of Palma, is accused of using his title to win deals for the institute he ran with his business partner Diego Torres. The trial is the first time that a member of Spain’s royal family has faced criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975. Felipe took the throne in 2014 after his father, Juan Carlos, abdicated. The monarchy was credited with helping Spain negotiate its way back to democracy after decades of fascist rule under General Franco.
Prosecutors claim the former Olympic handball medallist Urdangarin exploited his royal connections to win public contracts to stage events through the non-profit organisation. The case is taking place in Palma de Mallorca, the regional capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands, because many of Urdangarin’s business deals under investigation took place on the islands.
The case has been brought by a private anti-corruption association, Clean Hands. Most of the other defendants face more serious charges, including corruption and money laundering. Spain’s public prosecutor is looking for a 19-year sentence for Urdangarin. Investigators began to look into the Nóos Institute after huge over-expenditure was reported at bicycle track being constructed on Majorca.
Cristina was on the Nóos board, and she and her husband owned a real-estate firm, Aizoon, that prosecutors claim was used to launder illegal Nóos revenue. It is claimed Aizoon was a front to fund lavish holidays, host parties at their modernist Barcelona mansion and fund salsa dance classes. “In the trial, we will continue to defend the innocence of the princess with conviction and confidence,” lawyer Miquel Roca announced to the media outside the court.
The case has fuelled public resentment at corruption in business and politics amid high unemployment levels and a sluggish economy.