Spanish princess faces charges of tax fraud

Princess Cristina with her husband Inaki Urdangarin. Picture: Reuters
Princess Cristina with her husband Inaki Urdangarin. Picture: Reuters
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Princess Cristina, the younger daughter of King Juan Carlos of Spain, has been charged with tax fraud and money-laundering, piling further scandal on the once-beloved but increasingly unpopular royal family.

A magistrate in Palma, Majorca, ruled in a 200-page report there was enough evidence for the 48-year-old Infanta to face prosecution. She has been summonsed to court on 8 March, paving the way for an unprecedented trial of a Spanish royal.

Her lawyer, Miguel Roca, told Spanish television he would appeal the summons.

Her husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, was previously charged with fraud, tax evasion, falsifying documents and embezzling €6 million (£5m) in public funds through his charitable Noos Foundation, which put on sports business conferences in Majorca and elsewhere in Spain. Urdangarin denies wrongdoing.

The case has undermined support for the royal family, whose popularity has sunk to its lowest level ever. A Sigma Dos poll on Sunday showed almost two thirds of Spaniards want King Juan Carlos to abdicate after 38 years on the throne and hand over to Prince Felipe, who is well regarded and untainted.

Juan Carlos became king with the restoration of the monarchy in 1975 following the death of dictator General Franco. He won respect for his role in the transition to democracy, notably in helping foil a coup bid in 1981.

But various scandals, extravagances, and incidents such as an elephant-hunting trip to Africa at the height of the economic crisis in 2012 have tarnished his standing as has the Urdangarin affair.

While they have been under investigation, Cristina and her husband have kept out of the public eye. She and their four children moved last year to Geneva where she works for a Spanish bank’s charity. Urdangarin remains in Spain.

The case is centred on Urdangarin’s non-profit foundation. He is accused of using his connections to win public contracts to put on events in Spain.

Judge Castro has said there is evidence the foundation overcharged and hid the proceeds abroad.

In his ruling yesterday, he detailed dozens of personal items the princess paid for – from Harry Potter books to home redecorations – through a shell company alleged to have laundered money from the foundation.

“These sums were used on strictly personal spending. They should have been declared in income tax returns. But it is evident neither Inaki Urdangarin nor Mrs Cristina de Borbon [the royal family’s name] ever did so, which means they repeatedly defrauded the tax authority,” he ruled.

However, the judge also said it was not clear whether the princess had evaded more than €120,000 in taxes a year, the division between a minor misdemeanour and a criminal act in Spanish law.

The charges are known as an imputacion in Spain and can be thrown out before trial, unlike an indictment. An imputacion suggests there is evidence of criminality.

Judge Castro opened his investigation three years ago but has struggled to make charges stick against Cristina.

Last April Judge Castro ruled there was evidence she aided and abetted Urdangarin. A higher court threw out those charges in May, but gave him more time to investigate alleged tax fraud.