Judge decides to prosecute Princess Cristina in Nóos corruption case
Mallorca court confirms Felipe VI's sister remains official target in tax fraud investigation
A Palma de Mallorca court has confirmed that Princess Cristina, sister of King Felipe VI, remains an official suspect in a criminal investigation into graft and money laundering known as the “Nóos case.”
Judge José Castro now wants to put Princess Cristina on trial, although he will first have to hear any appeals.
The decision comes three years after Judge Castro began investigating the business dealings of Cristina de Borbón’s husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player. He and a business partner are thought to have diverted more than €6 million of public money they received to organize sports events in the Balearics and Valencia regions through their non-profit Nóos Institute.
The anti-corruption attorney in the Balearics, Pedro Horrach, said he would file an appeal against the decision “because there is still no element of proof against” Cristina. Horrach, who has opposed naming the princess as an official suspect from the beginning, stated that “she has been targeted exclusively because of who she is.”
But Judge Castro’s writ states that “there is more than enough preliminary evidence” to suggest that Cristina de Borbón benefited personally from her husband’s ill-earned money, part of which she used for personal expenses, as her financial accounts show. She also made it easier for her husband to secure this money through her 50-percent stake in Aizoon, a front company set up to receive the diverted funds, the judge believes. Cristina and Urdangarin passed off personal expenses as company expenses, which they deducted from their tax filings.
Meanwhile, the royal palace on Wednesday issued a short statement confirming its “full respect for the independence of the judiciary.”
In February of this year, Cristina de Borbón became the first member of a Spanish royal family to be questioned in court in connection with a criminal investigation. At the time she deflected most questions by saying she could not recall the events.
The royal palace issued a statement confirming its “full respect for the independence of the judiciary”
The case has caused serious damage to the reputation of the Spanish royal family, which until recently had been untouchable. Many observers believe that Juan Carlos’ decision to relinquish the throne this month in favor of Felipe is connected to the drop in its popularity ratings.
Juan Carlos personally attempted to prevent any future scandals as early as 2006, when he ordered Urdangarin to leave the Nóos Institute. This coincided with questions raised by opposition parties in the Balearics assembly over the suspicious contracts that the regional government was awarding Nóos without any public tender.
Judge Castro spent nine months reconstructing the financial life of the king’s daughter through her bank accounts, credit cards, bills, properties and tax filings to determine whether there was enough evidence to target her as well.
Cristina used credit cards that drew funds from Nóos to pay for things such as dance lessons and clothes for her children, and the couple refurbished their luxury home in downtown Barcelona using money from the same source.
A first attempt to question her in April 2013 was blocked by the Palma de Mallorca provincial court.
Urdangarin and his business partner Diego Torres are thought to have siphoned off over €6 million in public money from the Valencia and Balearics regional governments between 2004 and 2006.
Through their Nóos Institute the partners won government contracts for sports and tourism events without making official bids, then channeled much of the money to privately owned companies and offshore tax havens, after overcharging for services that were sometimes nonexistent, according to the inquiry.
As the investigation comes to a close, Urdangarin has shown a willingness to pay the more than €337,000 that the Tax Agency is claiming that he owes. But he refuses to admit to any guilt in the charges against him, blocking any possibility of a deal with the anti-corruption attorney’s office, sources familiar with the investigation said.
This means that Urdangarin cannot qualify for any reductions on the 15-year prison term that the attorney is seeking for him.