Make me your Homepage
left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Spanish princess testifies in graft case

Updated: 2014-02-10 08:03
By Agencies in Palma de Mallorca, Spain ( China Daily)


Spanish princess testifies in graft case

Spain's Princess Cristina, daughter of King Juan Carlos, leaves a courthouse after testifying in front of judge Jose Castro over tax fraud and money-laundering charges in Palma de Mallorca on Saturday. Albert Gea / Reuters

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 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.

Streets away from the courthouse, in Palma de Mallorca, capital of the Balearic Islands, hundreds of protesters shouted slogans calling for a republic and an end to institutional corruption at a time of financial crisis.

"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 retiree.

"It seems the privileges they have aren't enough for them - they have to do something that really annoys the people," said Mateo Castellanos, 61, who traveled hundreds of miles from the mainland to protest.

"A large part of the country is suffering hardship."

Cristina, the younger daughter of King Juan Carlos and seventh in line to the throne, is facing preliminary charges of tax fraud and money laundering linked to her use of income from a shell company she owned with her husband Inaki Urdangarin.

Both the princess and Urdangarin - who have not represented the monarch at official events since 2011 - have denied any wrongdoing.

"Her testimony was extensive and exhaustive," said one of Princess Cristina's lawyers, Miguel Roca, outside the court. "We are fully confident that today could not be a better day for the princess. We are all equal before the law."

Another of her lawyers, Jesus Maria Silva, told reporters: "Everything has been cleared. The questioning has shown how the princess is innocent of all the accusations made against her."

Manuel Delgado, a lawyer for one of the two civil groups that first brought charges against the princess, told journalists during a break, "Most of her answers have been 'I don't know', 'I don't remember' and 'I fully trusted my husband'."

Protesters cheered and applauded Judge Jose Castro as he drove past on his motorbike at the end of the hearing. The princess, dressed soberly in a white shirt, black jacket and trousers, had been given special permission to be driven to the courthouse door for security reasons.

Embezzlement claims

With Spain emerging slowly from a deep economic and financial crisis that has left 26 percent unemployed, judges are looking into hundreds of corruption cases left over from a property boom that ended abruptly in 2008.

Urdangarin is charged with crimes including the embezzlement of 6 million euros ($8.17 million) of public money at a charitable foundation he ran where the princess was a board member.

The 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.