Princess Cristina Set for Trial in Test for Spanish King

Princess Cristina may have committed tax fraud and money laundering, a Spanish judge concluded, clearing the way for King Felipe VI’s sister to face trial.

Judge Jose Castro issued the ruling today after completing his investigation into Cristina and her husband Inaki Urdangarin’s business affairs at the court in Palma de Mallorca. Manos Limpias, the public workers’ union that lodged a private prosecution against the couple, will file charges within the next 20 days, Secretary General Miguel Bernad said. Cristina has done nothing wrong and will challenge the ruling, her lawyer, Miquel Roca, said in televised comments today.

The judge’s decision comes less than a week after Cristina’s younger brother was proclaimed king of Spain following their father’s abdication. Felipe promised to act with “integrity, honesty, transparency” at his swearing-in at the national parliament on June 19.

“If the new king backs up what he says with his actions, this could be very positive and would mean real change,” said Elisa de la Nuez, a state attorney and co-author of the book “Is There Any Justice?” which analyzes flaws in Spain’s legal system.

Cristina, 48, a mother-of-four with a master’s degree from New York University, is the first Spanish royal to face criminal allegations in court since the monarchy was reinstated almost 40 years ago.

‘Historic Moment’

“This is a historic moment,” Bernad, the union leader, said today by telephone. “The sister of the new king is going to sit in the dock.”

The trial may begin in about eight months, Bernad said. The princess could still avoid a hearing if the provincial court upholds her appeal against today’s decision.

Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player then an executive at Telefonica SA, is suspected of crimes including embezzlement, defrauding the government, influence trafficking and falsifying official documents.

The probe focused on the non-profit Noos Institute that Urdangarin headed, which received public funds, and Aizoon SL, a shell company he owned equally with his wife that received money from Noos, according to court documents.

‘Strictly Personal’

The allegations against Cristina hinge on her involvement in and knowledge of her husband’s activities. Cristina is suspected of using Aizoon for “strictly personal” spending, which amounted to receiving untaxed dividends from the company while reducing the firm’s taxable profits, according to court filings.

Spending included trips to South Africa’s Kruger National Park, tickets to Rome’s Olympic Stadium and restaurant bills including children’s menus, according to an earlier ruling signed by the judge. Home refurbishments and a 1,742-euro ($2,370) crockery set were also charged to the company.

Cristina was named as an official suspect on Jan. 7 for suspected tax evasion and money laundering. In the 200-page court filing -- such documents are usually a few pages long -- the judge highlighted the difficulty of bringing her to court, saying “it was necessary to write nothing short of a treatise of procedural law.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a television interview on Jan. 20 that he was convinced the princess was innocent and that she should resist calls to give up her royal privileges. In the same interview, Rajoy, whose party’s finances are being investigated in a separate probe, said that everyone should be “equal before the law.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.