Spanish king's daughter wins respite in graft scandal

8th May 2013, Comments 0 comments

Spanish King Juan Carlos's daughter Cristina won respite in a corruption case on Tuesday when a court spared her for the time being from being questioned as a suspect in the scandal.

The affair has plunged Spain's monarchy into an unprecedented crisis, sapped its popularity in the polls, and has raised speculation that Juan Carlos may abdicate.

The court in Palma on the island of Mallorca said in a written ruling that it suspended "for the time being" a summons for the Infanta Cristina, 47, in the graft case against her husband.

It warned however that it remained to be decided whether Cristina would be summoned to go before a judge in a tax and money-laundering case also linked to him.

The initial summons for Cristina was the first time a direct relative of the king has been called to appear in court on suspicion of wrongdoing.

A judge is investigating accusations that Cristina's husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, and his former business partner Diego Torres, embezzled six million euros (eight million dollars) in public funds meant for sports events.

The money was allegedly placed in the non-profit Noos Institute, which Urdangarin chaired from 2004 to 2006 and of which Cristina was a board member.

Cristina and public prosecutors had each appealed the summons issued by judge Jose Castro, who had named her as a suspect in the graft investigation.

"The summons of the Infanta to appear and testify as a suspect for deeds attributed to her... in relation to her participation in the alleged criminal activities of the Noos Institute is rendered void," the ruling said.

"The imputation is suspended, for the time being," it said, but the court "will have to decide whether it maintains the imputation of fiscal crime" and summons her as a suspect on those charges.

Urdangarin had tried to distance Cristina from his affairs but Torres handed the judge emails which he said were evidence that she was aware of Noos's business operations.

She is also suspected of allowing her husband to exploit her prestige as seventh in line to the throne.

In Tuesday's ruling, the court said it did not find sufficient evidence of criminal acts to justify summoning Cristina as a suspect for influence-peddling.

Neither she nor Urdangarin has been charged with any crime.

The prosecutors had argued Cristina was being unfairly targeted because of her royal status.

Judge Castro had said that not to summon her would look like preferential treatment.

The royal palace, which had openly backed the prosecutors' move to suspend the summons, expressed its "greatest respect" for the decision by the court while Cristina's elder sister Elena told a television channel she was "very happy" the summons had been called off.

Juan Carlos won wide respect in Spain for helping guide it through a political transition after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, but his popularity has plunged since the Urdangarin affair erupted in late 2011.

It came on top of the 75-year-old king's health problems -- seven surgical operations in the past three years -- and a scandal last year when he went on an expensive elephant-hunting trip as Spaniards struggled in a recession.

Despite speculation that he would step aside for his son Felipe, the king has indicated in recent months that he wishes to continue ruling.

© 2013 AFP

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