Spanish princess testifies in corruption probe
Updated: 2014-02-08 21:59
PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain - Spain's Princess Cristina was questioned by a judge on Saturday in a corruption case that has deepened public anger over graft among the ruling class and discontent with the royal family.
It was the first time that a Spanish royal has been summoned in a criminal proceeding since the monarchy was restored in 1975 following the death of dictator Francisco Franco.
With Spain emerging slowly from a deep economic and financial crisis, judges are looking into hundreds of corruption cases left over from a property boom that ended abruptly in 2008.
Cristina, the younger daughter of King Juan Carlos and seventh in line to the throne, is answering preliminary charges of tax fraud and money laundering linked to her use of income from a shell company she co-owned with her husband Inaki Urdangarin.
She was driven down a ramp to the courthouse in Palma de Mallorca, capital of the Balearic Islands, and walked the last few steps, smiling at the press and dressed soberly in a white shirt and black jacket.
Streets away, hundreds of protesters shouted slogans calling for a republic, equal justice for all and an end to institutional corruption.
"I'm a monarchist, but if they have done wrong they should return what they stole and be exposed just like the rest of us," said Angel Rodriguez, an 80-year-old pensioner passing by the court.
Urdangarin is charged with crimes including the embezzlement of 6 million euros of public money at a charitable foundation he ran and where the princess was a board member.
Both the princess and Urdangarin - who have not represented the Crown at official events since 2011 - have denied wrongdoing.
The closed-door court hearing in Palma took place after the princess had been given special permission to be driven to the courthouse door for security reasons.
That meant she did not have to walk down a long ramp under the glare of hundreds of cameras, unlike her husband when he testified.
The arrangement underlined the perception among many Spaniards that the royal family has been given favourable judicial treatment.
Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player, is accused of using his royal connections to win generous no-bid contracts from the regional Balearic Islands government to put on sports and marketing events before a 2008 property market crash, when local governments were awash with cash.
Judge Jose Castro is investigating how Urdangarin overcharged and charged for services never provided, and how the proceeds went to a shell company without the appropriate tax being paid. The couple co-owned the shell company and used it for personal expenses including, for example, work on their Barcelona mansion and the princess's salsa lessons.