Spain’s Princess Cristina and husband announce split

Spain's Princess Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarín, who was jailed in 2018 for fraud, announced Monday they have separated after he was photographed holding hands with another woman.

Spain's Princess Cristina (L) and her husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin (R) leave a corruption hearing in 2016. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP
Spain's Princess Cristina (L) and her husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarín (R) leave a corruption hearing in 2016. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

“By mutual agreement, we have decided to put our marriage on hold,” the couple said in a joint statement sent to Spanish news agency EFE, without specifying if they would divorce.

“Our commitment to our children remains intact. Since it is a private decision, we ask for the utmost respect from all those around us.”

Last week, gossip magazine Lecturas published pictures of Urdangarín, who was released on parole in 2019, walking hand-in-hand with another woman on a beach in the south of France.

Spanish media later identified her as Ainhoa Armentia, who works with Urdangarín at a law firm in the northern Spanish city of Vitoria.

Asked about the photos on Thursday, Urdangarín told reporters it was “a difficulty which we will manage with the utmost calm, as we have always done.”

Princess Cristina, 56, and Urdangarín, a 54-year-old former international handball player and Olympic medalist with Spain, have been married for over 24 years and have four children.

A Spanish court in 2017 found Urdangarín guilty of taking millions of euros between 2004 and 2006 from a non-profit foundation he headed in the island of Majorca.

He served part of his five-year and 10-month sentence for embezzlement and tax evasion until judges in 2019 allowed him to swap it for community work.

Cristina, who lives in Switzerland, herself was also tried on charges that she helped her husband evade taxes, but was acquitted.

During the trial, she repeatedly denied knowing anything about her husband’s business affairs.

Cristina was the first member of Spain’s royal family to face criminal charges since the monarchy’s restoration in 1975.

The couple have been excluded from all of the royal family’s official public appearances since late 2011.

King Felipe VI stripped his elder sister Cristina of the title of duchess in 2015, a year after he ascended to the crown following his father Juan Carlos’ abdication in 2014.

Juan Carlos left Spain in August 2020 to live in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in the face of mounting questions over his finances.

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IN PICS: Crowds gather to greet Spain’s exiled ex-king on first visit back

Spain's former king attended a regatta in Galicia on Friday on a controversial first trip home after nearly two years in exile following a string of financial scandals. "Long live the king!" and "scoundrel" were both heard from the crowd of bystanders and journalists present.

IN PICS: Crowds gather to greet Spain's exiled ex-king on first visit back

Although prosecutors have closed their probes into Juan Carlos I’s affairs, revelations about the murky origins of his fortune have done irreparable damage to a figure once revered for his role in Spain’s democratic transition after decades of dictatorship.

Pulling up to the sailing club in the resort town of Sanxenxo, the 84-year-old — who flew in from Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening — was greeted by dozens of well-wishers, and a crowd of journalists.

As he got out of the car wearing a white top, cream vest and salmon slacks and began shaking hands with supporters, there were cries of “Long live the king!”

Spain’s former King Juan Carlos I (L) waves to the crowd from a car as he arrives in Sanxenxo, northwestern Spain. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP)

But there were also a few cries of dissent with one man shouting “scoundrel” — a possible reference to the financial scandals that prompted Juan Carlos to move to Abu Dhabi in self-imposed exile in August 2020.Hobbling along with his cane and holding onto the arm of an aide, the ex-monarch beamed as he greeted the crew of his yacht, the “Bribón” — Spanish for “rascal”.

Crowds cheer as Spain’s former King Juan Carlos I arrives at the nautical club in the Galician town of Sanxenxo. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP)

The six-metre (20-foot) racing yacht is the same vessel with which he and his crew won the world sailing title in 2017 and 2019.

It was unclear whether he would be joining them aboard for the race. He has not sailed for some three years, Spain’s RTVE public television said.

Spain’s former King Juan Carlos I (3rdR) prepares to board his “Bribón” boat with the help of his walking stick and his entourage. (Photo by Brais Lorenzo / AFP)

The former monarch will stay with a close friend in Sanxenxo until Monday when he travels to Madrid for a brief visit with his wife Sofia, his son King Felipe VI and other family members.

He will leave for Abu Dhabi later on Monday, the palace said.

News of the disgraced former king’s impending arrival sparked a backlash earlier this week.

“There is no longer any legal or judicial reason to stop the king emeritus from travelling to Spain but there are a wealth of ethical grounds that explain the commotion this has caused,” an El Pais editorial said on Thursday.

“Anyone returning to Spain with a record like king Juan Carlos I would be arrested and prosecuted as soon as they crossed the border” it tweeted.