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VOL 23 NO 59 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Saturday, January 9 2016
Posted : 09 Jan, 2016 17:57:04 AA-A+
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Spain's Princess Cristina prepares for historic trial
Spain's Princess Cristina prepares for historic trial


On Monday Spain’s Princess Cristina will become the first member of the country's royal family to be put on trial. King Felipe's sister faces tax fraud charges as part of an alleged embezzlement scam involving her husband and 16 other defendants, who all deny the charges.

In the courtroom in Palma, Majorca, the princess will be accused of being an accomplice to tax fraud, along with her husband Inaki Urdangarin. His supposedly non-profit company was allegedly used as a vehicle to win falsely inflated contracts from regional government bodies, before channelling the money to personal accounts via tax havens.

The amount of public funds paid to Urdangarin's Noos Institute has been calculated at €5.6m (£4.1m; $6.07m).

Princess Cristina, 50, was a board member at the charitable Noos sports foundation and, with Mr Urdangarin, co-owned a real estate company called Aizoon, which prosecutors say was used to launder embezzled funds.

CHARGES

•    Princess Cristina is charged with being an accomplice to tax fraud, relating to the financial years 2007 and 2008. The private prosecution accusing her wants a jail sentence of eight years

•    Inaki Urdangarin is accused of using the Noos Institute and associated companies to embezzle public funds amounting to €5.6m and is also accused of fraud, influence peddling and money laundering, among other offences. The public prosecutor wants a jail sentence of 19.5 years for the king's brother-in-law

•    16 other defendants in the case, including Diego Torres, Mr Urdangarin's former partner at Noos, and Jaume Matas, a former government minister and former chief of the Balearic Islands regional government

•    Mr Torres could face up to 16.5 years in jail on similar charges to Mr Urdangarin, while Mr Matas could face 11 years, having already served a nine-month term for corruption

WHY PRINCESS CRISTINA IS IN COURT

The case was launched in 2010 by a judge investigating corruption among Balearic Islands officials. It has become highly symbolic of perceived corruption among Spain's elites, including the royal family.

After the premises of the Noos Institute were raided by police in late 2011, the royal household moved quickly to isolate Mr Urdangarin, banning him from public appearances.

But the monarchy's popularity continued to suffer after then-King Juan Carlos was revealed to have broken his hip on a secret elephant-hunting trip to Botswana the following April.

Juan Carlos abdicated in June 2014.

His son King Felipe VI has sought to distance the crown from any further fallout from the corruption case, stripping Cristina of her title of Duchess of Palma, after it was confirmed last year that she would have to stand trial.

Princess Cristina, however, has so far refused to renounce her right to succession and remains sixth in line to the Spanish throne.

Spending Christmas with Mr Urdangarin and their four children in Geneva, where the couple moved in 2013, the princess is reported to be upset at her brother's cold treatment.

"It is very hard to be abandoned by your family," she was quoted as saying in the online publication El Espanol by the journalist Ana Romero, a respected royal observer whose book about King Juan Carlos's abdication, Final de Partida (End of the Game), has become a bestseller in Spain.

But a judicial process that has already seen many twists and turns may still provide one more which could prevent the princess from being judged.

Unlike Mr Urdangarin, Cristina is accused only by a private prosecution brought by an obscure right-wing trade union.

Public prosecutors argued that the 50-year-old princess was not aware she was helping her husband to launder money and avoid paying tax. But the investigating judge agreed with the union Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) that she should face trial on two counts of tax fraud relating to 2007 and 2008.

The union is asking for the royal to be jailed for an improbable eight years.

However, the princess's defence team will ask the trial judges on Monday that their client be acquitted, under a legal principle which allows a defendant to walk free if they are only accused by private prosecutors and not the state.

The princess's lawyer, Miquel Roca, said this week he was "totally confident" that Princess Cristina would not have to go through with the trial.

Monday will see all of the 18 accused enter court, but the session will be given over to technical issues, with testimony and cross-examinations expected to start in February.

It has emerged that the princess will be seated at one end of the third and final row of accused, right next to the area reserved for the media.

She was already the object of a media frenzy when having to attend a Majorca courthouse to testify before the investigating judge in 2014.

The courtroom, actually a converted classroom in a civil service academy, will also have space for 36 members of the public. The trial is due to end on 30 June, according to BBC.



- biplab

 

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