Spain’s Princess Cristina has lost a legal battle to avoid being tried for tax fraud and is expected to testify next month in a corruption trial also featuring her husband and 16 other defendants, a panel of judges ruled yesterday.
Lawyers for the sister of King Felipe VI, a prosecutor and a state attorney representing Spain’s tax authorities all said earlier this month that the charges against Cristina, 50, should be thrown out as officials agreed she committed no crimes and should face at most an administrative tax evasion fine.
But the three judges presiding over the case disagreed, according to a statement released by the court. They sided with an investigative judge who spent four years probing the case and ruled earlier she could be tried because of evidence presented by private anti-corruption group Manos Limpias (Clean Hands).
That means the princess will face two counts of tax fraud, carrying a maximum prison sentence of eight years, for allegedly failing to declare taxes on personal expenses paid by a real estate company she owned with her husband, Inaki Urdangarin.
After the decision was issued, the palace said it respected all Spanish judicial decisions but declined further comment. Cristina works for a Spanish bank in Switzerland where she lives with her family and has been excluded from royal appearances for years because of the case.
Her lawyer, Miquel Roca, said the decision was a disappointment but he said the princess received the news “with the utmost serenity and all due respect that any judgment always deserves.”
She will next appear in court on 9 February when the defendants begin testifying and she is expected to be the last person to answer questions in proceedings scheduled to end by 26 February.
The judges will have to weigh whether the couple criminally abused the Aizoon real estate consulting firm, described in court documents as a “front company” to fund luxury holidays, throw parties at their Barcelona mansion and pay for salsa-dancing classes.
The trial is the first time a member of Spain’s royal family has faced criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.
Urdangarin, formerly Duke of Parma, and others face charges of embezzling up to €6.2 million (£4.8m) from contracts that were allegedly inflated or never honoured. He is also accused of using his title to land the deals for the Noos Institute he ran with business partner Diego Torres.