Government fears for image of Spain in wake of princess’s court order

Foreign Minister speaks of “enormous concern” Socialists echo administration’s stance

Madrid / Barcelona -

The first reaction of the governing Popular Party (PP) to Princess Cristina being named as a suspect in the Nóos fraud case unfolding against her husband was one of “concern” for the image of the monarchy and of Spain abroad.

“Anything that affects an institution that has been seminal in the transition to democracy in Spain and is seminal for its prestige abroad is a source of enormous concern,” said Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, adding that the PP would respect the decision “as it does all judicial decisions.” Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the Socialist leader, used exactly the same words at a press conference Thursday.

On whether the princess may renounce her royal status, García-Margallo noted: “Every citizen must respect the presumption of innocence, one of the rights included in the Constitution.”

“I have seen the foreign press but have not had time to speak to my counterparts,” the minister replied when asked about reactions abroad. He also said he had not yet spoken to the king.

Members of the judicial profession are worthy of the highest level of trust,” said Prince Felipe

Deputy Socialist leader Elena Valenciano called on the government, Congress and the Royal Household not to take sides “over a legitimate and normal discrepancy between the judge and the prosecutor,” who differ on the basis for calling the princess to testify. Valenciano added the Socialists also believed it was “bad news” for the image of Spain but a possible silver lining could be that it sends a message that “nobody escapes the law.”

PP deputy Vicente Martínez Pujalte removed his toe from the party line and accused Judge Castro of seeking “personal prominence more than the search for truth.”

Other high-ranking members of the government, including the prime minister, have so far kept their counsel on the princess’s court summons, a prudence that can be partly explained by the possible addition of former regional premier of Valencia, Francisco Camps, and Valencia mayor Rita Barberá being added to the list because of their ties to Nóos.

While the king is yet to publicly pronounce on the matter, the Royal Household issued a statement on Wednesday backing the prosecutor’s decision to challenge Judge Castro’s decree.

Prince Felipe, the heir to the throne, attended the inauguration of new judges at a ceremony in Barcelona on Thursday. “Members of the judicial profession are worthy of the highest level of trust,” said the prince, who was greeted by a standing ovation. Felipe called on the barristers to carry out their work “with strength and judiciousness.”

Reasons to summon a princess

  • The nature of the princess's role at Nóos and Aizoon: The judge asked why Cristina was listed as a board member and spokesperson at both companies if, as royal secretary Luis Carlos Revenga — also a suspect — reported, she did "nothing" at the company. In one of the emails given to the judge, Revenga said it was "important" that Cristina's name appeared on Nóos' publicity as "HRH the Princess."
  • Judge Castro stated that Revenga and the princess were not on the board "because of your abilities, as impressive as they are." The idea, the judge wrote, was to give the impression "to private companies and institutions that all of Nóos' activities were known to and enjoyed the support of the royal family."
  • Castro makes a nod to public opinion, saying that to not summon the infanta "would leave the question open and discredit the notion that justice is equal for all."
  • Diego Torres, the erstwhile partner of Urdangarin has been supplying emails to the judge as part of his defense strategy. In one the two men discuss Cristina's involvement and decide it "should have something to do with sailing." In another, Urdangarin asks his wife to proof a letter before sending it out to members of the royal family. The judge said it was unlikely Urdangarin was operating behind his wife's back and that it seems he consulted her on various aspects of the institute's running.
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