• Spain's news in English

King's daughter lands corruption court call-up

George Mills · 3 Apr 2013, 14:43

Published: 03 Apr 2013 14:43 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A Spanish judge named King Juan Carlos's daughter the Infante Cristina as a suspect in a corruption case on Wednesday, dealing a spectacular blow to the prestige of the royal family.

It is first time a member of the Spanish royal family has been called to appear in a court of law on suspicion of wrongdoing.

The 47-year-old duchess must testify as a suspect on April 27 at the court in Palma on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, said a written ruling by the judge, Jose Castro.

"The royal household does not comment in any way on judicial decisions," a spokesman for the royal family told AFP.

The case, which was opened at the end of 2011, is centred on allegations of embezzlement and influence peddling against her husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, and his former business partner Diego Torres.

The pair are suspected of syphoning off money paid by regional governments to stage sports and tourism events to the non-profit Noos Institute, which Urdangarin chaired from 2004 to 2006.

The Infanta — the seventh in line to the Spanish throne — had seemed set to avoid being snared by the case.

But the judge said evidence, including emails provided to the court by her husband's former business partner, raised doubts that she really was unaware of the business operations of Noos.

Closing the case without hearing the princess, who was a member of the Noos board, would "discredit the maxim that justice is equal for all", he said.

The princess is accused of allowing the lustre of her royal connections to be used by the Noos institute.

Urdangarin, who has not been charged with any crime and maintains his innocence, had sought to distance his wife and the rest of the royals from his business dealings.

But Torres provided the judge with emails, which were leaked to the press, appearing to show that Urdangarin regularly consulted his wife about Noos affairs.

Cristina's personal secretary, Carlos Garcia Revenga, also was questioned by the judge after Torres submitted another batch of emails that suggested he was actively involved in the Noos Institute's dealings.

Spain's 75-year-old king, recovering from surgery in March for slipped discs, his seventh operation in three years, is credited with steering Spain to democracy following the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.

But Juan Carlos' standing has taken a hit over the corruption probe and over a luxury elephant-hunting safari he took in Africa last year at a time of record unemployment in Spain.

Nearly 57 percent of Spaniards feel the king should abdicate in favour of his 45-year-old son Prince Felipe, according to an opinion poll released last month.

Cristina, who works as the director of social welfare programmes at Barcelona-based financial services group La Caixa's charitable foundation, has kept a low profile since the scandal broke.

Story continues below…

The easy smile she was known for has been replaced by a grim expression during her rare outings.

A fan of various sports, especially sailing, Cristina met Urdangarin at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where he was competing with Spain's handball team, which won a bronze medal.

In 2009 Cristina and her husband, along with their four children, moved from Barcelona to Washington where Urdangarin took up a job as an executive director of the US subsidiary of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica.

The couple, who were given the title of Duke and Duchess of Palma when they wed, were living in the United States when the allegations of corruption at the Noos Institute first broke in Spain.

"All we want to do is live a normal life and you won't let us," she said when approached by a Spanish television reporter at a Washington supermarket in February 2012, just before her husband was questioned in court in Palma for the first time.

In August last year the couple and their four children returned to Barcelona, where they own a mansion in the exclusive Pedralbes area that reportedly cost around €6 million ($8 million).

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available