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Spanish princess called to testify in corruption probe

April 03, 2013|By Lauren Frayer
  • Spain's Princess Infanta Cristina, shown in May 2012, with her husband Iñaki Urdangarin and their children at the funeral of Urdangarin's father. The princess has been summoned to testify in a corruption case involving her husband.
Spain's Princess Infanta Cristina, shown in May 2012, with her husband… (Rafa Rivas / Agence France-Presse/Getty…)

MADRID -- A Spanish court Wednesday called the youngest daughter of King Juan Carlos to testify in a corruption case involving her husband, the first-ever legal summons for a direct descendant of the country's monarch.

The 47-year-old princess, known as Infanta Cristina, is scheduled to appear at a court on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca on April 27. It is the same venue where her husband, IƱaki Urdangarin, has testified twice before investigators looking into allegations that he and a former business partner embezzled at least $6.4 million in public funds through sports charities they ran.

Neither Urdangarin, 45, nor the princess has been charged.

The proceedings against them are similar to those conducted by a U.S. grand jury, in which investigators collect evidence and testimony, then decide whether charges should be filed.

The corruption probe is the latest in a series of scandals to dog Spain's royal family in the past year, including one that precipitated a rare public apology from the king.

Urdangarin is a former Olympic handball champion who married Cristina in 1997, a year after the couple met at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Upon their marriage, they became the Duke and Duchess of Palma, after the capital of the Balearic Islands, of which Mallorca is part.

Earlier this year, the town of Palma de Mallorca requested that Urdangarin stop using the title and changed the name of a prominent thoroughfare named after him.

Urdangarin, who was chairman of the nonprofit Noos Institute from 2004 to 2006, is accused of stealing taxpayer money donated to organize sporting and cultural events in Spain. He stepped down from his post after allegations of financial irregularities involving the charity's clients, some of which are alleged to be shell companies created by Urdangarin to launder money.

In his court testimony, Urdangarin said that his wife and father-in-law had no direct knowledge of or involvement in his business dealings. But subpoenaed emails from his former business partner, Diego Torres, suggest otherwise. Some emails reportedly reveal that Urdangarin boasted of his close business relationship with King Juan Carlos and sought business advice from Cristina. The princess' personal secretary also testified before investigators in February.

Cristina is seventh in line to the Spanish throne, after her two siblings and their children.

Her father was credited with keeping Spain intact through its transition to democracy in the late 1970s after the death of military dictator Francisco Franco. But Juan Carlos' popularity has waned in recent years. Last month, a poll showed that 57% of Spaniards want the king to abdicate.

Last spring, Juan Carlos issued a public apology from the Madrid hospital where he was convalescing from a broken hip he suffered on an elephant-hunting safari in Africa. The trip cost several times the average Spaniard's annual salary and outraged people at a time of record unemployment at home.

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