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Spain's Princess Cristina court case underway

Sat 9th Jan 2016
Spain's Princess Cristina court case underway

Spain’s Princess Cristina is prepared for trial as a court set Monday to begin the process.

She will become the first member of the country’s royal family to be put on trial.

According to a BBC report King Felipe’s sister faces tax fraud charges as part of an alleged embezzlement scam involving her husband and 16 other defendants, who all deny the charges.

In the courtroom in Palma, Majorca, the princess will be accused of being an accomplice to tax fraud, along with her husband Inaki Urdangarin.

His supposedly non-profit company was allegedly used as a vehicle to win falsely inflated contracts from regional government bodies, before channelling the money to personal accounts via tax havens.

The amount of public funds paid to Urdangarin’s Noos Institute has been calculated at €5.6m ($6.07m), according to the report.

Princess Cristina, 50, was a board member at the charitable Noos sports foundation and, with Urdangarin, co-owned a real estate company called Aizoon, which prosecutors say was used to launder embezzled funds.

Princess Cristina, however, has so far refused to renounce her right to succession and remains sixth in line to the Spanish throne.

Spending Christmas with Urdangarin and their four children in Geneva, where the couple moved in 2013, the princess is reported to be upset at her brother’s cold treatment.

“It is very hard to be abandoned by your family,” she was quoted as saying in the online publication El Espanol by the journalist Ana Romero, a respected royal observer whose book about King Juan Carlos’s abdication, Final de Partida (End of the Game), has become a bestseller in Spain.

But a judicial process that has already seen many twists and turns may still provide one more which could prevent the princess from being judged.

Unlike Urdangarin, Cristina is accused only by a private prosecution brought by an obscure right-wing trade union.

Public prosecutors argued that the 50-year-old princess was not aware she was helping her husband to launder money and avoid paying tax.

But the investigating judge agreed with the union Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) that she should face trial on two counts of tax fraud relating to 2007 and 2008.

The union is asking for the royal to be jailed for an improbable eight years.

However, the princess’s defence team will ask the trial judges on Monday that their client be acquitted, under a legal principle which allows a defendant to walk free if they are only accused by private prosecutors and not the state.

The princess’s lawyer, Miquel Roca, said this week he was “totally confident” that Princess Cristina would not have to go through with the trial.

Monday will see all of the 18 accused enter court, but the session will be given over to technical issues, with testimony and cross-examinations expected to start in February.

It has emerged that the princess will be seated at one end of the third and final row of accused, right next to the area reserved for the media.

She was already the object of a media frenzy when having to attend a Majorca courthouse to testify before the investigating judge in 2014.

The courtroom, actually a converted classroom in a civil service academy, will also have space for 36 members of the public. The trial is due to end on 30 June, says BBC.

Recommended Reading :

* Trial involving King Felipe's sister Cristina to begin Jan 11th

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