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Home News Spain press says royal fraud case shows law same for all

Spain press says royal fraud case shows law same for all

Published on 08/01/2014

Spain's press Wednesday hailed the news that King Juan Carlos' youngest daughter has been declared a financial fraud suspect as evidence that all are equal under the law.

Newspapers devoted front pages and reams of ink inside to a Majorca judge’s decision to summon Princess Cristina, 48, as a suspect in tax and money-laundering crimes linked to the activities of her husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin.

The judge, Jose Castro, had summoned the princess once before, in April 2013, only to have his decision overturned on an appeal by the prosecutor, sparking accusations in some media of favouritism.

This time, the summons ran to 227 detailed pages and commentators seemed to agree that it would survive any appeal, meaning that a direct relative of the Spanish king would appear in court as a suspect for the first time in modern history.

“Far from endangering the pillars of the state or the future of the monarchy, the judge’s decision is a good symptom of the democratic health of a society facing severe criticism of the functioning of its institutions,” Spain’s leading daily El Pais said in an editorial.

“There is nothing strange about a judge proceeding in a criminal case. The opposite would be untenable: not asking any question of the king’s daughter because of who she is.”

The judge in the Majorca court has been investigating allegations that Urdangarin and a former business partner embezzled six million euros ($8 million) in public funds via the Noos Institute, a charitable foundation that he chaired.

The blonde-haired Cristina was a member of the board of Noos and with her husband jointly owned another company, Aizoon, which investigators suspect served as a front for laundering embezzled funds.

Right-leaning daily El Mundo said the latest turn in the case showed that Cristina should have agreed to appear when the judge first tried to summon her on suspicion of abusing her royal position for financial benefit.

“What this case has shown is the spectacular failure of a strategy, which, while trying to shield the monarchy, has left it scorned,” it said.

Among those joining the strategy, El Mundo said, were the prosecutor, defence lawyers, the tax authorities, the royal household and the media, “which hypocritically applaud the king for defending justice that is ‘equal for all’ while at the same time showing support for burying activities of the princess that are worthy of judicial investigation”.

‘Princess should not get special treatment’

The pro-monarchy ABC, however, protested that the media had already started its own trial.

“The princess should not receive any special treatment, and ABC defends that. Like any Spaniard she will have to abide by what the judicial system finally decides,” the paper said.

“But neither should she be sentenced ahead of time in a parallel trial by media, whose obvious motive is to seek an audience or to sell more papers on the back of the scandal, whether it is true or not.”

ABC praised the palace for a statement of “respect for judicial decisions” that it issued after the court summons.

The head of the royal household, Rafael Spottorno, said in a television interview broadcast on Saturday that the investigation had become a “martyrdom” for the royal family.

Indeed, the 76-year-old king’s standing among Spaniards has been damaged by the corruption scandal, and outrage over a luxury African elephant-hunting safari he took in 2012 as his subjects suffered in a job-destroying recession.

The monarch appeared tired as he presided over a military parade while on crutches Monday, stammering occasionally in his first public appearance since undergoing an operation to replace his left hip on November 21.

The number of people with a high or very high opinion of the king fell nine percentage points over 2013 to 41 percent, according to a poll published on Sunday in El Mundo.

The number of people wanting him to abdicate in favour of Prince Felipe, 45, surged by 17 percent points to 62 percent, according to the study by pollster Sigma Dos carried out in late December.

The royal palace and the king have firmly denied any consideration of an abdication.