Spanish princess testifies in corruption probe

Updated: 2014-02-08 21:59


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Spanish princess testifies in corruption probe

Examining Magistrate Judge Jose Castro leaves the courthouse on his motorcycle in Palma de Mallorca, Feb 7, 2014. Spain's Princess Cristina, daughter of King Juan Carlos, will appear in court Feb 8 before Judge Castro to testify over tax fraud and money-laundering charges. The princess, 48, faces preliminary charges of tax fraud and of laundering money through a shell company set up by her husband Inaki Urdangarin, whose title is the Duke of Palma. [Photo/Agencies]


Widespread hardship and an unemployment rate of 26 percent have fuelled popular resentment of the wealthy and powerful. Figures show that Spain's crisis has widened a gulf between rich and poor.

The royal scandal has hastened a decline in the popularity of the once-revered King Juan Carlos after a series of gaffes showed his high-flying lifestyle to be woefully out of step with a nation suffering an unemployment rate of 26 percent.

An opinion poll released last month put the king's popularity at a record low, with almost two thirds of Spaniards wanting him to abdicate and hand the crown to his son.

"Support for the king plummeted when, in a situation of great economic and social difficulty, he projected an image of frivolity, of having neglected his obligations," said Ignacio Torres Muro, professor of constitutional law at Madrid's Complutense University.

The multiple probes of top politicians and personalities, union leaders and bankers are being pushed by anti-graft groups because state prosecutors have proven reluctant to tackle politically sensitive cases.

The same goes for Castro's investigation of Princess Cristina, which has faced resistance from the state prosecutor, who has come out in defence of the princess.

After Saturday's hearing, Castro could formalize the charges and move to trial, or he could drop them or allow the princess to plead to lesser charges.

Castro brought the preliminary charges against the princess in January in a 227-page ruling. Last year he brought charges of aiding and abetting, only to have them thrown out by a higher court. The investigation began four years ago.

The princess has stuck by her husband, but last year moved with their four children to Switzerland to escape media attention. She works for a charitable foundation there.

Many Spaniards think she will get off lightly.

"This is a country where there are no consequences for being corrupt. They get a free ride," said Maria Gomila, an 18-year-old student.