Spanish Princess Cristina in Court as Fraud Case Begins

  • Court has to rule on whether case against her will proceed
  • Case is lightning rod for public concern over corruption

Spanish Princess Cristina de Borbon appeared in court as a landmark fraud trial that became a lightning rod for anger at institutional corruption got under way.

Cristina, the sister of King Felipe VI, arrived at a court in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, shortly after 8 a.m. for preliminary hearings ahead of a wider fraud trial examining the activities of her husband’s Noos foundation. A judge ordered Cristina to trial in December 2014 over allegations she was an accessory to tax charges linked to her husband, the former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin. The couple arrived together in the same car.

The trial will mark the decisive chapter in the probe into the Noos Institute, which has become an emblem of how corruption permeated the highest levels of Spanish society as the country headed into a financial crisis. Urdangarin is on trial for offenses including embezzlement and influence trafficking in relation to his role at Noos, a non-profit institute that received public funds.

A spokeswoman for Cristina’s lawyer Miquel Roca in Barcelona declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg. Both Cristina and Urdangarin have previously denied wrongdoing in the case.

The judges will have to decide whether to apply the so-called Botin Doctrine in the case of the princess. Named after the deceased former Banco Santander SA chairman Emilio Botin, the doctrine follows a decision by the Spanish Supreme Court rule which stated that people can’t be tried for tax crimes without the support of the public prosecutor because the state is the damaged party in such cases.

Anti-corruption Prosecutor Pedro Horrach said the Spanish tax agency was the only involved party in the case, and that neither it or the prosecutor’s office think there is a case to answer, ABC newspaper reported, citing comments by him in court Monday. If the circumstances were the same for an ordinary Spanish citizen, he or she wouldn’t be facing trial, the newspaper said, citing Horrach.

As well as Cristina and Urdangarin, 17 other people are due in court. If the case against Cristina proceeds, she will give testimony starting Feb. 9.

In June last year, King Felipe stripped Cristina of her title of Duchess of Palma, which she inherited by royal decree in 1997.

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