Princess Cristina Inaki Urdangarin

Spanish Royals face trial on fraud charges — this happens first time since 1975

A Spanish princess and her husband go on trial today in a corruption case that has angered her country and damaged the reputation of its royal family.

Princess Cristina, a mother-of-four, will be the first royal to face criminal charges since the monarchy was reinstated following the 1975 death of dictator General Franco.

The 50-year-old princess, who is sixth in line for the throne and lives in Switzerland, is the sister of King Felipe VI and has been charged with tax evasion.

Among the 17 co-accused is former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, who she married in 1997. He has been accused of embezzlement, influence peddling, document falsification, money laundering and tax fraud.

If Cristina is found guilty she faces up to eight years in prison, while her husband could be jailed for more than 19 years if he is convicted.

The couple deny the claims, with the trial expected to last until June.

At the centre of the case is the Noos Institute, a charity based in Palma, on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, where Spain’s royals have a holiday home and where the trial will take place.

Urdangarin, 47, chaired the institute between 2004 and 2006, during which time he and former business partner Diego Torres are accused of embezzling $6.7m (£4.6m) from two regional governments given to the charity to stage events such as sports fixtures.

It is alleged that Urdangarin used his connection to the monarchy to get inflated contracts unopposed before moving the money into Aizoon, a firm he ran with wife Cristina to fund their luxurious lifestyle.

The couple are accused of using Aizoon for expenses such as renovating their 13,000sq ft Barcelona mansion, trips to a South African national park, dance lessons and Harry Potter books, reducing the firm’s taxable profits.

At a preliminary hearing in February 2014 Cristina told the court she loved her husband and trusted him with their finances, repeatedly answering questions with “I don’t know”. Torres told a television interview that Cristina’s father Juan Carlos and his staff kept an eye on the Noos Institute’s accounts and offered advice.

Spaniards have seen bankers, footballers, politicians and trade unions exposed in recent corruption scandals, ruining their trust in the country’s elite as it tries to recover from its economic problems.

The royal scandal and health problems meant that Juan Carlos abdicated, leaving the crown to his son Felipe in June 2014. Cristina was not invited to Felipe’s swearing in ceremony and he stripped her and her husband of the titles of Duke and Duchess of Palma de Mallorca soon afterwards.

Felipe also brought in rules preventing royals from working for private firms and ordering that palace accounts be audited externally.

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