ROYAL SCANDAL

King’s sister loses last-ditch attempt to avoid taking the stand in Nóos case

Royal household expresses “complete respect for independence of the judiciary”

Cristina de Borbón at the January hearing in which her defense tried to get her exonerated.
Cristina de Borbón at the January hearing in which her defense tried to get her exonerated.CATI CLADERA (EFE)

The Spanish royal household on Friday expressed “complete respect for the independence of the judiciary” after learning about a court decision that will mean that Cristina de Borbón must stand trial in connection with the so-called Nóos case.

King Felipe VI’s younger sister had made one last attempt at avoiding the stand by invoking the “Botín doctrine,” a piece of jurisprudence that might have saved her from being the first member of the Spanish royal family to be a defendant in a criminal case.

But the Provincial Court of the Balearic Islands, which is handling the case, feels that the infanta, as the king’s sister is known, was a “necessary cooperator” on two counts of tax crimes allegedly perpetrated by her husband, former Olympic handball player Iñaki Urdangarin.

Neither public prosecutors nor state lawyers are charging Cristina de Borbón with any crimes

Urdangarin faces more than 19 years in prison if found guilty of the charges of embezzlement, document forgery and money laundering that have been leveled against him. He and a business partner are believed to have used their non-profit Nóos Institute to divert around €6.2 million from no-bid public contracts for organizing sports events in Valencia and the Balearics into private accounts.

Cristina sat on the board of a company, Aizoon, that was allegedly used to channel part of these funds. She also used a company credit card to make personal purchases, then claimed them as business deductions in her tax filings.

Neither public prosecutors nor state lawyers are charging Cristina de Borbón with any crimes. Instead, the case was brought by a private accusation, an obscure right-wing anti-corruption union called Manos Limpias (Clean Hands).

King Felipe VI meets with a representative for Podemos-En Marea on Friday.
King Felipe VI meets with a representative for Podemos-En Marea on Friday.EFE

This fact led the infanta’s defense to claim that she should not stand trial, based on an earlier case involving Emilio Botín, the deceased CEO of Santander Group, who was exonerated from a tax evasion trial for similar reasons.

But the three-judge panel sitting in the Balearics courthouse has decided that both cases are sufficiently different to warrant their decision to make Cristina take the stand. The decision cannot be appealed, meaning that the infanta will be back in court sometime after February 9, when the trial begins.

A preliminary hearing was held on January 11 in which the defenses stated their arguments to have the charges against their clients dropped.

On Friday, King Felipe VI appeared in public with a smiling, relaxed attitude as he sat down to talks with a member of the congressional group Podemos-En Marea, as part of the protocol leading to the investiture session to name Spain’s next prime minister following the December 20 election. No mention was made of Cristina’s situation.

English version by Susana Urra.

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