Spain's Princess Cristina, daughter of King Juan Carlos,
leaves a courthouse after testifying in front of judge Jose
Castro over tax fraud and money-laundering charges in Palma
de Mallorca. Photo by Reuters
Spain's Princess Cristina has been questioned by a judge
in a corruption case that has deepened public anger over graft
among the ruling class and discontent with the royal family.
It was the first time that a Spanish royal has been summoned
in a criminal proceeding since the monarchy was restored in
1975 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.
Streets away from the courthouse, in Palma de Mallorca,
capital of the Balearic Islands, hundreds of protesters
shouted slogans calling for a republic and an end to
institutional corruption at a time of financial crisis.
"I'm a monarchist, but if they have done wrong they should
return what they stole and be exposed just like the rest of
us," said Angel Rodriguez, an 80-year-old pensioner passing
by the court.
Cristina, the younger daughter of King Juan Carlos and
seventh in line to the throne, is facing preliminary charges
of tax fraud and money laundering linked to her use of income
from a shell company she owned with her husband Inaki
Both the princess and Urdangarin - who have not represented
the Crown at official events since 2011 - have denied any
Reporters were not allowed into the closed hearing.
"Her testimony was extensive and exhaustive," said one of
Princess Cristina's lawyers, Miguel Roca, outside the court.
"We are fully confident that today could not be a better day
for the princess... We are all equal before the law."
Manuel Delgado, a lawyer for one of the two civil groups that
first brought charges against the princess, told journalists
during a break: "Most of her answers have been 'I don't
know', 'I don't remember' and 'I fully trusted my husband'."
Protesters cheered and applauded Judge Jose Castro as he
drove past on his motorbike at the end of the hearing.
With Spain emerging slowly from a deep economic and financial
crisis which has left 26 percent unemployed, judges are
looking into hundreds of corruption cases left over from a
property boom that ended abruptly in 2008.
Widespread hardship and high unemployment have fuelled
popular resentment of the wealthy and powerful, and data show
that Spain's crisis has widened a gulf between rich and poor.
The princess, dressed soberly in a white shirt, black jacket
and trousers, had been given special permission to be driven
to the courthouse door for security reasons.
That meant she did not have to walk down a long ramp under
the glare of hundreds of cameras, unlike her husband, a
commoner, when he testified in the case in 2012. The contrast
underlined the perception among many Spaniards that the royal
family has been given favourable judicial treatment.
Urdangarin is charged with crimes including the embezzlement
of €6 million of public money at a charitable foundation he
ran where the princess was a board member.
The former Olympic handball player, is accused of using his
royal connections to win generous no-bid contracts from the
regional Balearic Islands government to put on sports and
marketing events before a 2008 property market crash, when
local governments were awash with cash.
Judge Castro is investigating accusations that Urdangarin
overcharged and charged for services never provided, and that
the proceeds went to a shell company without the appropriate
tax being paid.
The couple co-owned the shell company and used it for
personal expenses including work on their Barcelona mansion,
according to court documents.
KING UNDER PRESSURE
The scandal has hastened a decline in the popularity of the
once-revered King Juan Carlos, who has already been
embarrassed by a series of gaffes - including his decision to
go on lavish elephant hunting trip at a time of particularly
An opinion poll released last month put the king's popularity
at a record low, with almost two thirds of Spaniards wanting
him to abdicate and hand the crown to his son.
"Support for the king plummeted when, in a situation of great
economic and social difficulty, he projected an image of
frivolity, of having neglected his obligations," said Ignacio
Torres Muro, professor of constitutional law at Madrid's
After Saturday's hearing, Castro could formalise the charges
and move to trial, or he could drop them or allow the
princess to plead to lesser charges.
Castro brought the preliminary charges, based on the
accusations from the civil groups, against the princess in
January in a 227-page ruling. Last year he brought charges of
aiding and abetting, only to have them thrown out by a higher
court. The investigation began four years ago.
The princess has stuck by her husband, but last year moved
with their four children to Switzerland to escape media
attention. She works for a charitable foundation there.