Cristina de Borbón, King Felipe VI’s sister, arrived at a makeshift courthouse in Mallorca on Tuesday morning as a defendant in a landmark trial that has attracted the entire nation’s attention.
She is expected to be the last person to testify in a high-profile corruption trial involving 16 other people, including her own husband, former regional politicians and several businesspeople.
The case has drawn considerable attention as this is the first time that a member of the Spanish royal family has been placed in the dock. Her defense’s attempts at getting Cristina exonerated based on legal precedent failed to convince the panel of three judges presiding the trial.
The group of 17 defendants could be served with sentences totaling a collective 200 years
The 50-year-old princess arrived at the Palma de Mallorca facility at around 9am in the company of her husband, former Olympic medalist-turned-businessman Iñaki Urdangarin, who is considered one of the masterminds behind the Nóos scandal.
The scale of the trial is such that it is being held inside a large building in Son Rossinyol, an industrial area outside Palma de Mallorca, rather than at the Balearic Islands provincial court. The building sits across from the local penitentiary.
Sharing the stand with the royal couple are 11 former elected officials from the regions of Valencia, Balearic Islands and Madrid who allegedly awarded hefty contracts to the non-profit Nóos Institute, run jointly by Urdangarin and his associate Diego Torres.
Cristina’s role stems from the fact that she sat on the board of a firm that was allegedly used to channel part of these funds
Both men are believed to have used their non-profit to divert around €6.2 million from public contracts won for organizing sports events. Urdangarin allegedly used his royal connections to secure no-bid contracts from regional administrations run by the Popular Party (PP), overcharging for his services.
Cristina’s role in the case is minor, and stems from the fact that she sat on the board of a company, Aizoon, that was allegedly used to channel part of these funds. She faces a prison sentence of up to eight years if found guilty of using some of this money for personal expenses, then claiming these as deductions in 2007 and 2008 tax filings.
But the group of 17 defendants could be served with sentences totaling a collective 200 years. Urdangarin, who is charged with embezzlement, document forgery and money laundering, could spend over 19 years behind bars.
Cristina de Borbón, who was dropped from the royal family's agenda after her involvement in the case became public, is due to answer questions on February 26, according to the provisional trial schedule.
The drawn-out pre-trial investigation was an added blow to the Spanish royal family’s reputation at a time when its popularity ratings were already low. Juan Carlos abdicated in June 2014 and handed the throne over to his son Felipe, who pledged to bring more transparency to the institution.
English version by Susana Urra.