Spain sceptical over princess's graft testimony

9th February 2014, Comments 0 comments

Claims by Spain's princess Cristina in court that she had no knowledge of her husband's allegedly dodgy business affairs were met with scepticism in the crisis-hit nation on Sunday.

King Juan Carlos's youngest daughter was grilled for over six hours on Saturday over allegations she was complicit in tax-dodging and money laundering in a case that has plunged the royal family into crisis.

The 48-year-old royal faced a tough interrogation over her alleged illegal used of funds from Aizoon -- a real estate firm she owned with her husband -- for personal expenses, including work on their Barcelona mansion, dance lessons and Harry Potter books.

Cristina sought to side-step the accusations by telling the judge she had simply "had great trust in her husband", ex-Olympic athlete Inaki Urdangarin.

"For us it is obvious that she is trying to save herself at any cost even if it means sacrificing another suspect," said Manuel Delgado, a lawyer for a civil party in the case, the left-wing association Frente Civico, who attended the closed-door hearing.

Cristina, a mother of four with a master's degree from New York University who works at La Caixa bank, is the first direct member of the Spanish royal family in history to appear in a court as a suspect.

"'I trusted my husband'," top-selling daily newspaper El Pais headlined on its front page above a photo of a smiling Cristina, wearing a white shirt and black jacket, as she arrived at the court in Palma on the holiday island of Majorca for the hearing.

"If, as alleged, she only passively collaborated in her husband's business, as occurs with many Spanish women, her liability diminishes considerably," columnist Jose Maria Carrascal in pro-monarchy daily newspaper ABC.

"But she will have difficulty in explaining how she did not know the origin of the money and its use, working as she does at a bank. But it will be difficult to demonstrate that she did know, which is key to any conviction," he added.

- Ignorance claims 'not credible' -

Judge Jose Castro has spent more than two years investigating allegations that Urdangarin and a now-estranged former business partner embezzled six million euros ($8 million) in public funds via a charitable foundation called the Noos Institute.

Castro has referred to Aizoon in court paperwork as a "front company" which received money diverted from the foundation.

Neither Cristina nor her husband have been formally charged with any crime and both deny any wrongdoing.

The scandal has sent the popularity of the monarch plunging as anger mounts against the elite in a Spain dealing with 26 percent unemployment, rising economic inequality and austerity.

"It is a bit hard for the public to accept that she did not know anything," El Mundo royal correspondent Ana Romero told AFP.

"If it is all her husband's doing, the logical reaction would be to say 'You put me in this mess, I'm leaving!'. So why does she stay with him?".

During Saturday's hearing, Castro projected images of several invoices presented by Cristina for goods and services paid for with credit cards belonging to Aizoon.

One invoice was for the complete collection of the popular Harry Potter books, while another was for a dishwasher.

"A majority of the public have condemned her already because it is not credible that a person like the princess, who has a degree in political sciences and works at a bank, does not know what she is signing when she signs an invoice," Antonio Torres del Moral, a law lecturer at Spain's UNED university, told AFP.

The head of the royal household has described the investigation as a "martyrdom" for the royal family and urged Castro to wrap up his probe as soon as possible.

© 2014 AFP

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