INFANTA IN COURT

Princess reunites with royals after long court testimony

Infanta Cristina will remain in the cold in terms of official palace duties

King’s circle goes into damage-limitation mode

Infanta Cristina leaves the courthouse of Palma de Mallorca on Saturday. / JAIME REINA (AFP)

After her six-hour testimony on Saturday before a Mallorca judge over her alleged role in a tax-fraud and money-laundering inquiry, Princess Cristina flew to Madrid and went straight to see her father, King Juan Carlos, at La Zarzuela palace.

The king's youngest daughter retained a smile throughout the flight that took her to the capital, as captured by a hidden camera carried on board by a journalist from the private network Telecinco.

Doña Cristina had dinner with her parents, slept over at the royal palace and flew to Geneva the next morning to join her four children and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin at their family home. The couple no longer live in a mansion they own in Barcelona, which has been seized by the court in connection with the so-called Nóos inquiry.

Judge in no hurry to rule on infanta

ANDREU MANRESA

The future of the king’s daughter as an official suspect in the so-called Urdangarin case will not be resolved any time soon. After Princess Cristina gave evidence in a Palma de Mallorca court on Saturday, where she was questioned over her involvement in her husband’s business affairs, the magistrate investigating the case, Judge José Castro, will take his time before deciding whether to absolve the infanta from all suspicion of wrongdoing, or opt to sit her in the dock for a trial that may take a year to get started.

The preliminary investigations into the alleged tax evasion and money laundering of Cristina's husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, are all but complete after nearly seven hours of testimony given by the princess on Saturday. The judge will now analyze the extensive transcript of her statements, and may request additional information should he need it.

The public prosecutor and the defense in the case are not expected to pressure the judge into ruling on whether or not Cristina will face charges in the case, thus leaving Judge Castro room for maneuver. The public prosecutor has opposed the naming of the princess as a suspect in the case, but was overruled by the judge, who wanted Cristina to explain for herself her role in her husband's businesses.

Urdangarin's now-defunct Nóos Institute is the subject of an ongoing inquiry into an alleged scheme to divert public funds paid out by two regional governments for sports and tourism events.

Urdangarin also set up several not-for-profit businesses, including Aizoon, which prosecutors believe was one of the destinations to which Nóos income was diverted. Aizoon, nominally a real estate firm, was jointly owned by the couple.

Her involvement in the case stems from her husband's dubious business dealings, which have been under investigation for three years even though no formal charges have yet been filed.

Urdangarin, his former business partner, Diego Torres, and the latter’s wife face preliminary accusations of diverting some six million euros of public funds awarded to a non-profit organization, the Nóos Institute, through no-bid contracts with the Balearic Islands and Valencia regional governments. This money ended up in private companies such as Aizoon, owned jointly by Urdangarin and Cristina de Borbón, whose credit card history shows that she used those funds to pay for personal expenses such as dance lessons, magazine subscriptions and children's parties.

Although examining Judge José Castro had tried to question the princess over these facts last year, the attempt was swiftly struck down by a higher court with support from the anticorruption attorney in the Balearics, Pedro Horrach, who strongly opposes the implication of Cristina. But a second subpoena this year was accepted by the princess's legal defense as a way to end "the ordeal" as soon as possible.

The fact that Cristina dined at La Zarzuela on Saturday night may signal a turning point in her rocky relations with the royal family and the monarchy itself. Doña Cristina was clearly having trouble understanding just how much this affair was undermining the royals at a time when their popularity ratings are already at an all-time low over scandals such as Juan Carlos's secret elephant hunt in Botswana.

Nor did she seem to grasp that public opinion demanded she be treated just like anyone else before the law — a position that Judge Castro has underscored time and again to justify his decision to interrogate her.

Instead, for months she and her husband viewed the entire investigation as some kind of conspiracy against them, said sources familiar with the situation. The fact that Cristina sided with her husband despite the serious charges leveled against him (she refused to consider separation or to renounce her theoretical rights to the throne to which she is seventh in line) created major tension within the royal family, with Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia deliberately distancing themselves from the couple to avoid being tarnished by the case.

Meanwhile, the Royal Palace set the wheels in motion to protect the institution, dropping both Urdangarin and Cristina from all official events in October 2011. And despite her recent cooperation with the courts, Doña Cristina will not be representing the Crown again anytime soon. Juan Carlos himself said in his Christmas address that he accepts his "obligation to set an example."

Although the members of the royal family never say much, their actions speak volumes. And the actions of the last month speak of a common strategy to protect the institution: the princess did not set foot in La Zarzuela before her court appearance; Queen Sofía did not go to Barcelona to provide emotional support; the Royal Household did not issue statements of the kind that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy made when he said he was sure that "things will go well" for Cristina in the courts; and nobody accompanied the infanta to Palma de Mallorca. It was only afterward that the family finally got together again for dinner and to go over the situation — for the sake of the monarchy and for the sake of a family where only Urdangarin continues to be banished.

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