Spain judge wraps up royal corruption probe

2014-06-23 18:15
(Juan Carlos Hidalgo, AFP)

(Juan Carlos Hidalgo, AFP)

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Madrid - A Spanish judge says he will wrap up a corruption probe into King Felipe VI's sister Princess Cristina and her husband Inaki Urdangarin on Wednesday, opening up the prospect of a historic criminal trial.

Less than a week after 46-year-old Felipe VI took the crown from his father Juan Carlos promising an "honest and transparent" monarchy, the judge's decision threatens to put damaging royal corruption allegations back in the headlines.

The investigating judge in Palma de Mallorca, Jose Castro, will issue the results of his probe on Wednesday, the court said in a brief statement sent to reporters by text message.

Under the Spanish legal system, the judge will recommend a list of suspects and charges for trial.

A final decision, however, will be taken by the Palma de Mallorca provincial court after considering any appeals.

Anti-corruption prosecutors have previously opposed the judge's decision to name Cristina, aged 49, as a criminal suspect for complicity in the allegedly dodgy business dealings of her husband, a former Olympic handball player.

Long thought of as untouchable, the smiling, blonde-haired Cristina would be the first direct relation of the Spanish monarch in history to stand in the dock as a criminal.

Suspected embezzlement

The judge has spent more than two years probing allegations that Urdangarin, aged 46, and a former business partner creamed off money from government contracts awarded to Noos, a charitable foundation he chaired.

He suspects them of embezzling six million euros in public funds.

Cristina was a member of the foundation's board and with her husband jointly owned another company, Aizoon, which investigators suspect served as a front for laundering embezzled money.

In February this year, Cristina was grilled in an unprecedented six-hour hearing over the use of money from Aizoon for personal expenses, including work on the couple's Barcelona mansion, dance lessons and Harry Potter books.

But the princess, a mother of four with a master's degree from New York University, said she had simply trusted her blue-eyed, 1.97-meter tall husband and had no knowledge of his business affairs.

The corruption scandal is widely believed to be one of the reasons for the abdication on June 18 of Juan Carlos, aged 76.

The former king had earned widespread respect for helping to steer Spain to democracy following the dead of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975, but saw his popularity eroded by the corruption scandal and reports that he took a luxury African elephant-hunting trip in 2012 at the height of the country's economic crisis.

Cristina and Urdangarin married in 1997 in a lavish ceremony in Barcelona and were bestowed the titles of Duke and Duchess of Palma.

In 2009, the couple, who by then had four children, moved from Barcelona to Washington, where Urdangarin worked as a telecommunications executive.

Then the allegations of corruption broke in Spain.

"All we want to do is live a normal life and you won't let us," Cristina said when approached by a Spanish television reporter in a Washington supermarket in February 2012.

The family returned in August 2012 to Barcelona, where they own a mansion which reportedly cost around six million euros. It has since been impounded by the courts. After a year in Barcelona, however, they moved to Geneva.

Read more on:    king felipe vi  |  juan carlos  |  spain
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