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Tax fraud trial of Spain's Princess Cristina, husband begins

By Ed Adamczyk Follow @adamczyk_ed Contact the Author   |   Jan. 11, 2016 at 8:10 AM
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PALMA DE MALLORCA , Spain, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The tax fraud and corruption trial of Spain's Princess Cristina began Monday, again placing a spotlight on a scandal that has rocked the Spanish monarchy.

Cristina, 50, and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, 47, are suspected of using a charity, the Noos Institute, and the corporation Aizoon for their personal gain. Urdangarin is accused of using royal connections to obtain contracts to stage sporting events and embezzle $6.7 million in public money used to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his wife.

Sixteen others, including business associates and politicians, are also on trial.

More than 500 journalists converged on Palma de Mallorca, the trial site and island resort town where the couple has a home.

Christina, who denied wrongdoing, faces up to eight years imprisonment in the trial, marking the first time criminal charges were made against Spanish royalty since it was reestablished in 1975. Urdangarin faces 19 years in jail if convicted of charges including embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, falsifying private contracts and influence peddling.

King Felipe VI, working to rebuild the prestige of the monarchy, has restricted his involvement in his sister's case, encouraging the justice system to proceed.

It was the long-running scandal which prompted King Juan Carlos to abdicate in 2014 in favor of his son after rebuilding the monarchy after Spanish leader Francisco Franco's death in 1975.

Court papers say the couple allegedly used Aizoon to fund their Barcelona mansion, lavish trips, dance lessons and Harry Potter books, among other expenses, to reduce its taxable profits.

The trial could end quickly if a judge agrees to a Spanish legal precedent allowing tax fraud cases to be dropped if begun by a private party and not prosecutors. The case against the princess, her husband and the others involved was first brought by the civil servant union Manos Limpias. The judge can also rule in favor of the princess if it determined the union was not directly injured by the alleged fraud.

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