Princess denies any wrongdoing in Nóos case after six hours of testimony

Cristina said she does not remember charging personal expenses to real estate firm she co-owned

Princess Cristina arrives at the Palma de Mallorca courthouse on Saturday.
Princess Cristina arrives at the Palma de Mallorca courthouse on Saturday.ULY MARTIN (EL PAÍS)

In unprecedented testimony by a member of the royal family before a criminal court, Princess Cristina on Saturday denied that she had any knowledge of, or made any decisions in, her husband’s business dealings, including the management of a real estate agency that the couple jointly owned.

“I trusted my husband,” the princess told Judge José Castro during her six hours of behind-closed-doors testimony at the Palma de Mallorca courthouse after she had been subpoenaed to appear, according to lawyers who were present during the session.

King Juan Carlos’s youngest daughter is the target of a tax-evasion and money-laundering inquiry stemming from an investigation into the business dealings of her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, as head of the now-defunct Nóos Institute. Cristina has denied any wrongdoing.

Castro asked the princess about 50 invoices that purportedly show expenses she allegedly charged to Aizoon, the real estate company she co-owned with her husband. They include receipts for, among other things, birthday celebrations, communions and dance classes that Cristina allegedly paid for through Aizoon’s accounts. Prosecutors believe that part of the public money that was given to Urdangarin’s non-profit Nóos Institute was diverted to his private companies, including Aizoon.

Sitting before the judge, who presided over Saturday’s court hearing under a portrait of her father, King Juan Carlos, Cristina avoided answering most of the judge’s questions by responding: “I don’t know,” or “I have no knowledge about that,” according to lawyers who were sat inside the courtroom. Throughout the session, which began at 10am (CET), Castro treated the princess with restrained respect, addressing her as “señora.” He also continually reminded her that she was the joint owner of Aizoon.

“My husband advised me that I should assume that 50 percent, and I trusted in his good judgment,” she said.

Judge Castro did not make a decision on Saturday whether to drop the case against Cristina or order her to stand trial, judicial sources said.

The tax-evasion and money-laundering inquiry stems from a wider investigation into Urdangarin’s business dealings. Urdangarin, his former business partner Diego Torres and the latter’s wife face accusations that they helped divert some six million euros of public funds given to the Nóos Institute mainly by the Balearic Islands and Valencia regional governments to private entities, including Aizoon.

Judge Castro is determined to get to the bottom of the royal couple's financial arrangements. Specifically, he asked the princess about payments charged to Nóos and Aizoon for a subscription to La Redoute, a fashion magazine; phone orders to a New York company (156 euros) for sportswear; cases of Baigorri wine (1,357 euros); and a purchase for a collection of Harry Potter books. Cristina only acknowledged that Aizoon had paid for a trip to Rio de Janeiro.

Regarding evidence presented by tax inspectors that she charged Aizoon for merengue dance lessons, the princess said she didn’t remember. However, she acknowledged that she had taken flamenco classes. “I had fun,” she quipped.

Cristina became serious when Castro asked her if she had paid any of her Aizoon employees under the table, as some have testified. “That’s a lie,” she responded, adding that she didn’t know until recently that the first floor of her former six-million-euro home in the upscale Barcelona neighborhood of Pedralbes was used as the firm’s offices. She added that she hadn’t known that her domestic help was paid through the property firm’s account.

She did tell Judge Castro that she had received a 1.2-million-euro loan from her father, King Juan Carlos, to help purchase the Pedralbes mansion, which she is currently paying back. In a cordial and polite response, Cristina told the judge that she has been having difficulties making the payments on the loan.

“My father is one who has the final say-so,” the princess explained, regarding the king’s patience with regard to getting his money back.

A lawyer for the organization Civic Front, Manuel Delgado, said after the session that he didn’t believe that the princess was just another cog in the Nóos machine. “She is the culprit -- the show would not have gone on without her,” he said. “All we want is that justice is served as it should be with all Spaniards.

“She is trying to pull the wool over our eyes when she says that she doesn’t know who paid the bills,” he added.

Lawyers for two organizations, including the obscure right-wing Manos Limpias union, which has brought two separate private prosecutions against the princess, were also given the opportunity to question Cristina.

Sources from the Royal Household have said they are confident that Judge Castro will not take the step of formally charging the princess after hearing her testimony.

At around 1pm, the judge ordered a recess before continuing his questioning. The princess opted to have lunch inside the courtroom to avoid the TV cameras and the hordes of international reporters waiting for her outside. Earlier, a smiling Cristina arrived at the Palma de Mallorca courthouse for her testimony. She nodded and acknowledged the press contingent positioned behind a rail by police as she stepped out from the back seat of a dark Ford sedan that brought her to the back entrance of the courthouse.

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