Spanish king’s sister cleared in tax fraud case
Madrid: A Spanish court on Friday acquitted King Felipe VI’s sister, Princess Cristina, of charges that she helped her husband evade taxes.
Her husband, however, Inaki Urdangarin, was given a jail sentence of six years and three months for siphoning off millions of euros between 2004 and 2006 from a foundation he headed in the island of Majorca.
The 51-year-old princess was the first member of Spain’s royal family to face criminal charges since the monarchy’s restoration in 1975.
“We must acquit and we are acquitting Cristina Federica… of tax fraud, of which she was accused,” the court said. She was ordered however to pay a fine of 265,000 euros ($282,000) for benefiting from her husband’s wrongdoing. He was fined 512,000 euros.
The scandal broke in 2011 amid Spain’s deepest economic crisis in decades. Princess Cristina was facing up to eight years in prison if convicted of fraud over her 49-year-old husband’s work with the non-profit Noos Institute sports foundation.
Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball medallist was charged with the more serious crimes of embezzlement, influence peddling, forgery and money laundering.
The couple, who have been married since 1997 and have four children together, went on trial last year along with 15 others, including former government minister Jaume Matas.
After her 1997 fairytale marriage to Urdangarin, Princess Cristina was in the celebrity spotlight and won praise for having a salaried job. But eventually, people began to raise eyebrows at the couple’s lavish lifestyle.
In 2004 they purchased a 1,200-square-metre house for six million euros ($6.3 million) in Barcelona, with centre-right daily El Mundo asking: “Where is the money coming from.” Cristina’s husband Urdangarin has consistently claimed he never made any decisions without the royal family’s knowledge.
Since the scandal erupted, the pair have been excluded from all of the family’s official public appearances.
After Friday’s ruling was announced, Cristina’s lawyer Miquel Roca said she was “satisfied” with the verdict but saddened by her husband’s jail sentence.
“She was satisfied but also … pained to see her husband convicted. She believes his conviction is unjust, because she has always believed — and still believes — that he is innocent,” Roca told reporters in Barcelona.
The judgement, he added, acts as proof of “the equality of all citizens before the law”. — AFP