Spain's Princess Cristina heads to court for tax fraud trial

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain -- A landmark fraud trial opened Monday for Spain's Princess Cristina, accused of helping bankroll a lavish lifestyle with funds her husband received from an alleged scheme to embezzle millions from public contracts for conferences and sporting events.

See Full Article

Cristina and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, said nothing to dozens of reporters as the couple entered a makeshift courthouse amid tight police security aimed at keeping anti-monarchy protesters away.

The two then sat silently among a group of 16 other defendants as a judge read out the charges for the historic trial, which marks the first time that a member of Spain's royal family has faced criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.

Urdangarin and other are accused of embezzling up to 6.2 million euros ($6.8 million) from contracts which were inflated or never performed.

The 50-year-old Cristina faces 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 Urdangarin, an Olympic handball medallist turned businessman.

He faces more serious charges of using his former Duke of Palma title to land public contracts from politicians through the non-profit Noos Institute he ran with an associate.

Authorities Monday morning detained one protester with an anti-monarchy flag a short time before Cristina showed up at the court inside a sedan with dark tinted windows. A small group was allowed to protest nearby after the proceedings began.

Thousands of anti-monarchy protesters staged noisy demonstrations in 2014 while Cristina answered questions about the case posed by an investigative judge.

One of her lawyers argued in court Monday that a Spanish legal precedent should be applied to her case that allows tax fraud cases to be dropped when they are not initiated by prosecutors.

The lawyer, Jesus Maria Silva, urged the three-member panel of judges to drop the charges she faces because prosecutors don't believe she committed a crime. The case against her is happening under a quirk of Spanish law allowing private groups to pursue criminal charges.

The judges were expected to suspend the court proceedings late Monday or Tuesday so they could decide whether the princess will remain charged and required to appear again in the court when testimony begins in February.

The same defence tactic can't be used by Urdangarin, meaning it's all but inevitable that details will come out during the proceedings about the couple's everyday life behind the high walls of the mansion they were forced to sell during the investigation.

There are so many defendants and lawyers -- plus reporters -- covering the case that judicial officials move the trial from a courthouse to a sprawling building complex on the outskirts of Palma de Mallorca normally used to hold mass training courses for public servants.

The case is being heard in the regional capital of Spain's Balearic Islands because many of Urdangarin's business deals under investigation were for the islands.

Cristina denied knowledge of her husband's activities during the 2014 closed door court appearance, but judge decided she could be charged with tax fraud in 2007 and 2008.

Her case was driven forward by the anti-corruption group Manos Limpias (Clean Hands).

Details about the couple's lifestyle -- including parties paid for by the real estate company at their modernist Barcelona mansion, salsa-dancing classes and vacations at expensive hotels -- emerged from the pre-trial investigation, outraging Spaniards as the country teetered on the edge of an economic crisis.

The case added to the stream of bad headlines for Cristina's father, former King Juan Carlos -- already smarting from a backlash after he broke his hip during a 2012 elephant hunting trip seen as an example of royal excess. Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014, saying Spain needed fresh royal blood.

On taking the throne, King Felipe VI -- Cristina's brother -- pledged to restore public trust in Spain's monarchy. He later stripped Cristina and her older sister Princess Elena of their roles as official members of the royal family though they have not given up their slots of succession in line for the throne.

The trial is expected to last six months.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • South Korea's ex-president questioned at court as prosecutors push for arrest

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - South Korea's disgraced ex-President Park Geun-hye was being questioned Thursday by a court that will decide if she should be arrested over corruption allegations that have already toppled her from power. Source
  • Ivanka Trump to become unpaid White House employee [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — Ivanka Trump is officially joining her father’s administration as an unpaid employee, after her plans to serve in a more informal capacity were questioned by ethics experts. The first daughter announced Wednesday that she will serve as an unpaid employee in the White House, saying she had “heard the concerns some have with my advising the President in my personal capacity. Source
  • North Carolina lawmakers announce deal to end 'bathroom bill' standoff

    World News CTV News
    RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina Republican lawmakers said Wednesday night that they have an agreement with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on legislation to resolve a standoff over the state's "bathroom bill." GOP leaders announced the new legislation would be debated and voted on Thursday. Source
  • 13 killed after bus, truck collide in Texas [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    UVALDE, Texas — A small shuttle bus carrying Texas church members home from a retreat collided head-on with a pickup truck, killing 13 people and injuring two others Wednesday on a two-lane highway in southwestern Texas, officials said. Source
  • 13 killed in bus-truck collision in southwestern Texas

    World News CBC News
    A small shuttle bus carrying Texas church members home from a retreat collided head-on with a pickup truck, killing 13 people Wednesday on a two-lane highway in southwestern Texas, officials said. All of the victims who died were senior adults who attended First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas. Source
  • Alberta grey jay web cam may be a first, thrilling online fans

    Canada News CBC News
    A recently installed web cam in central Alberta may be the first to capture the breeding behaviour of Canada's unofficial national bird, the grey jay, and online fans around the world are tuning in. "I was extremely excited," biologist Myrna Pearman with the Ellis Bird Farm told The Homestretch, when she learned there was a fresh grey jay nest near a home in Caroline, Alta. Source
  • Inquest jury to begin deliberations into Regina woman's laundry-chute death

    Canada News CBC News
    The lawyer representing the family of Nadine Machiskinic said the coroner's inquest established at least a couple key facts. The 29-year-old mother of four fell 10 storeys down a Regina hotel laundry chute to her death. Source
  • Toronto man's home trashed, belongings stolen after Airbnb rental

    Canada News CTV News
    A Toronto man who rented his apartment to a stranger using the website Airbnb says he returned home to find it trashed and $21,000 worth of possessions missing. Mathew Lyn says the thieves stole camera equipment, a drone, clothes, shoes -- even his luggage. Source
  • Mexican judge suspended amid outrage over sexual assault ruling

    World News CBC News
    Prosecutors in Mexico are appealing a court ruling that dismissed sex crime charges because there was no proof the suspect acted "with lascivious intent," and judicial authorities announced Wednesday that the judge in the case had been suspended. Source
  • Kenn Borek Air crews honoured with Smithsonian award for perilous South Pole rescue mission

    Canada News CBC News
    A 10-hour mission from Calgary to the South Pole to rescue two sick workers had Calgary-based air crews receiving a Smithsonian award in Washington on Wednesday night. Last June, two Twin Otter Kenn Borek Air aircraft flew from Calgary to Chile to Rothera, Antarctica. Source