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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Spanish princess must face court

Published 07/01/2014 | 13:47

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Spain's princess Cristina has been summoned to appear in a fraud case (AP)

A Spanish court has ordered the daughter of King Juan Carlos to appear before it as a suspect in an investigation of tax fraud and money laundering - the latest blow to the royal family's reputation.

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Palma de Mallorca investigating magistrate Jose Castro summonsed 48-year-old princess Cristina to appear on March 8 for questioning about her partnership with her husband Inaki Urdangarin in a firm called Aizoon.

Urdangarin is already under investigation for allegedly using his position to embezzle several million dollars in public contracts assigned to the Noos Institute, a supposedly non-profit foundation he set up, and channel the funds to other business, among them Aizoon.

Last year, the court cancelled a subpoena for the princess to answer questions about the Noos case but said she could still be called to answer questions regarding possible tax fraud and money laundering as the investigation proceeded.

The 2013 summons had been a first for a member of the king's immediate family.

Neither the princess nor her husband has been formally charged with any crime. Any charges would come at the end of the investigation if the investigating magistrate decides there is sufficient evidence for a trial, a court spokeswoman said.

The probes have seriously damaged the image of 76-year-old Juan Carlos - once one of Spain's most respected figures - and eroded Spaniards' admiration for their royal family, especially as the investigations have coincided with a severe economic crisis that has widened the gap between rich and poor.

Judge Castro described the accounting at Aizoon as "opaque" and said the princess did not declare her earnings from the company. He added that the princess appeared to have maintained an attitude of "looking the other way" in her husband's business affairs.

Cristina is the youngest of the king's two daughters. She works for the Caixa bank's social and cultural foundation and is currently based in Geneva.

Urdangarin is a former professional handball player and an Olympic medallist for Spain. The deals he and his Noos business partner brokered included organising seminars and sports events as a tourism lure. However, some events were allegedly charged for but never took place or were charged at unusually high rates.

The royal family sidelined Urdangarin from all official royal activities in 2012 and later removed him from the family website.

-AP

Press Association

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