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Drop fraud charges for princess: Prosecutor

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Drop fraud charges for princess: Prosecutor
Spain's Princess Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin are embroiled in a corruption case involving alleged embezzlement of public funds. Photo: Rafa Rivas/AFP
12:45 CET+01:00
A prosecutor investigating alleged tax fraud by Spain's Princess Cristina, the sister of Spain's King Felipe, says charges against her should be dropped as they are unfounded and merely based on public pressure.

Spanish prosecutor Pedro Horrach, who has consistently opposed the bringing of criminal charges against Princess Cristina, has once again stated that the disgraced royal should be cleared of all criminal charges.

In early November, judges in Majorca ruled there was enough evidence to charge the princess with two counts of tax fraud, although earlier accusations of money laundering were dropped.

The charges against Cristina came as part of a two-and-a-half-year investigation into the alleged embezzlement of €6.1 million ($7.5 million) in public funds from the sports charity foundation Nóos Institute, jointly directed by Princess Cristina's husband Iñaki Urdangarin.

Nóos organised sports and leisure events and conferences, allegedly charging inflated sums to regional governments in Valencia and the Balearic Islands and siphoning off the money despite officially being a non-profit company.

A total of 16 people, including Cristina and her husband have been formally named in the investigation.

On Tuesday, Horrach submitted a 572-page report recommending a total of 103 years in prison for suspects in the high-profile corruption case, including nearly 20 years for Urdangarin.

He has also demanded that the princess and Urdangarin jointly pay a public liability bond of €587,413, or half the sum allegedly illegally earned by a Aizoon, a separate company thought to have been used by Cristina and her husband to launder money from the Nóos Institute.

But he called for charges against Cristina to be dropped, saying these were based on mere suspicion and were the result of public pressure.

He said the charges violated the concept of the presumption of innocence and there was a "lack of coherence in the case against her", noting that federal prosecutors and tax authorities had already stated there was a lack of evidence.

"I don't share the opinion of the people's accusation and as a result I have asked that the case against her to be dismissed," public prosecutor Pedro Horrach told reporters on the island of Majorca where the case is being investigated.

Cristina sat on the board of Nóos and Urdangarin was its chairman but in court in February, Cristina said she had simply trusted her husband and had no knowledge of his business affairs.

If she does go on to appear in court, she will be the first royal to do so.

However, there is still a chance she will avoid trial if judges apply a discretionary power that allows for people who have not been accused by a public prosecutor to have charges against them dropped.

The case against Cristina has been brought by right-wing, anti-corruption group Manos Limpias. They are seeking a sentence of eight years for the princess, and 26 and a half years for her husband.   

If charges are dropped, Cristina would still appear as a witness in the case, if Horrach's recommendations are accepted.

However, the princess could refuse to give testimony about her husband, witnesses having the right not to testify against direct relatives under Spanish law.    

A mother of four with a master's degree from New York University, Cristina was once considered untouchable as a member of the royal family.

But the so-called Nóos affair fanned public anger against the monarchy and ruling class during the recent years of economic hardship in Spain.

Urdangarin and Cristina have been excluded from royal activities since 2011. 

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