Princess Cristina prepares to take the stand in Nóos criminal inquiry
King’s daughter first royal to be called to testify as suspect
Urdangarin offered plea bargain to spare his wife, sources say
Princess Cristina, the youngest daughter of King Juan Carlos, will testify Saturday in the ongoing Nóos inquiry into the business dealings of her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin. It will be the first time a member of the Spanish royal family has ever appeared as an official suspect in a criminal inquiry.
The Nóos case, as it is known, concerns the alleged embezzlement of millions of euros of public money by Urdangarin and his erstwhile business partner Diego Torres. The two are accused of misappropriating the funds from the regional governments of the Balearic Islands and Valencia for staging sports and tourism events through the non-profit Nóos Institute and redirecting the funds to private companies, including the firm Aizoon, of which the princess is a co-owner.
A massive security deployment has been laid out around the Palma de Mallorca courthouse where the infanta will testify; a helicopter was patrolling the skies on Friday and signs were erected in the vicinity informing residents that they cannot enter certain areas. More than 200 police officers will be stationed around the court on Saturday.
Judge José Castro has decreed that the princess’s testimony will be recorded, but not captured on video as Torres had requested. The magistrate denied this decision constituted “favorable treatment” toward the princess, noting that when Urdangarin and other suspects gave their versions of events in February 2012 there was no visual recording.
“This did not represent any form of privilege — quite the opposite, as appearances that could perfectly well have been resolved in a few hours lasted more than 20 in the case of Mr Urdangarin,” Castro said.
The princess might have been spared a court appearance but for the failure of lawyers acting for her husband and Torres to cut a deal with prosecutors, sources close to the investigation said. The Duke of Palma had expressed his willingness to repay the six million euros he and Torres are alleged to have embezzled and to accept a four-year prison sentence.
As things stand, the prosecutors in the case are seeking a 12-year term for both the duke and Torres.
Neither did Torres and Urdangarin reach a timely agreement to address their fiscal irregularities with the Tax Agency before the criminal proceedings were instigated. Another error, say the same sources, as the agency’s inspection resulted in the anticorruption prosecutor’s involvement and, subsequently, the investigation into Princess Cristina for possible crimes of money-laundering and tax fraud.
Both Urdangarin and Princess Cristina have been quietly removed from the public eye during the Nóos inquiry. The duke was invited by the Royal Household to find work abroad as early as 2007, when the king got wind of a potential investigation into his son-in-law stemming from the Palma Arena case into large-scale corruption in the construction of a sports venue, from which the Nóos case stemmed.
The couple lived in Washington for a time and, after the inquiry had gotten underway, the duke, a former Olympic handball player, made an ultimately frustrated attempt to move to Qatar as an assistant coach to the national team. Cristina last year moved to Geneva to shield the couple’s children from the growing scandal.