NÓOS CASE

Spanish royal should not stand trial for tax fraud, defense claims

Cristina de Borbón hopes for last-minute exoneration from case affecting her husband

As expected, Cristina de Borbón’s defense on Monday insisted that the king’s sister should not sit on the dock for tax fraud.

The statements came on day one of a highly anticipated trial with 18 defendants who include former politicians, businesspeople and, for the first time in Spanish democratic history, a member of the royal family.

The hearings are taking place in Palma de Mallorca, where over 100 police officers are guarding the Palma Provincial Court.

At Monday’s preliminary session, which was devoted to defendants’ requests to be exonerated from further proceedings, the infanta’s lawyers used a battery of legal arguments to claim that Cristina should not stand trial because she has not been accused of any wrongdoing by either state prosecutors or tax authorities.

Instead, the case against her rests on charges filed by a private, far-right anti-corruption group called Manos Limpias (Clean Hands). This, they say, is not enough for a criminal trial.

“Why, on the basis of the same legal precept, has not a single citizen ever had to sit on the dock, yet one must do so in this case?” asked Pedro Horrach, the anti-corruption attorney, who has defended Cristina’s innocence throughout the inquiry.

After asking that the princess be dropped from the case, Horrach made an impassioned plea “for justice to be returned to its rightful place.”

Why, on the basis of the same legal precept, has not a single citizen ever had to sit on the dock, yet one must do so in this case?” Anti-corruption attorney Pedro Horrach

Horrach has stated in the past that Cristina de Borbón is being targeted for who she is, rather than what she did – namely, to claim tax deductions on personal purchases that were passed off as business expenses attributable to Aizoon, a company involved in a money-laundering scheme allegedly operated by her husband.

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the Spanish state, Dolores Ripoll, also came out in the royal’s defense, and pointed to legal doctrine set down in 2007, when the Supreme Court dismissed a tax fraud case against Santander CEO Emilio Botín on similar grounds that there was no public accusation against him.

But the lawyer for Manos Limpias, Virginia López Negrete, said that to drop the charges against Cristina de Borbón would be detrimental on three counts.

“It would damage the Spanish justice system, it would be an extremely serious attack against the state institutions, beginning with the monarchy itself, and it would stigmatize the infanta,” she said.

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While the legal experts from either side discussed her future, Cristina de Borbón appeared to pay close attention, sitting upright in her chair with a serious expression on her face.

In contrast, her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, who faces much more serious charges that range from money laundering to document forgery, fidgeted constantly in his seat and spoke in whispers to Diego Torres, his former business associate and a main defendant in the case like himself.

The court will reconvene on February 9 to begin the trial proper, but before that, defendants still have time to accept plea bargains that would reduce their convictions and avoid the need to sit in the dock.

English version by Susana Urra.

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