Friday, April 5, 2013

Princess Cristina of Spain formally named as a suspect in corruption case.

Infanta Cristina of Spain, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca, the 47 year old daughter of King Juan Carlos I, was formally named this week as a suspect in a case involving accusations of fraudulently obtaining millions in public funds. 

The Duchess, who is seventh in line to the Spanish throne, served as a board member on the non-profit Noos Institute, which was set up by her husband, Duke Iñaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic athlete who is accused of using this and other organizations to embezzle millions of euros in taxpayer money. Urdangarin is also under investigation for tax fraud involving money in offshore bank accounts and various companies he owns, including one co-owned by his wife. The Duke claims that she was unaware of any illegal activities.

While the Royal Family has tried to distance itself from Urdangarin during the investigation, it has become directly involved in the defense strategy of Princess Cristina. After learning on Wednesday of the judge's decision to name her as a suspect in the case of alleged irregularities, King Juan Carlos personally asked Barcelona lawyer MiquelRoca Junyent to defend his youngest daughter. Roca Junyent is a well known political figure from Spain's transition to democracy and is considered one of the fathers of the country's 1978 Constitution.

On Thursday, Urdangarinis lawyer, Mario Pascual Vives, confirmed that he would not be representing the Princess, after having stated publicly the day before that “it would be an honor” to do so. Pascual Vives visited with the Duke and Duchess for for several hours yesterday. Barcelona's La Vanguarida newspaper quoted him as describing the couple as “united in adversity,” and once again denied rumors of a possible marital split.

After stressing that he is not the the Princess' spokesperson, Pascual Vives reportedly described her to journalists as being “concerned.”

Since news of the court's decision broke earlier this week, the media has been camped outside of the couple's €6 millon ($7.75 million) Barcelona home.

British newspaper The Guardian reported that Urdangarin is “struggling to come up with his share of the €8.1m bail set for him and his former business partner Diego Torres, who both deny the allegations.”

This is only the latest in a series of bad news for the Spanish Royal Family. Spain's El Mundo newspaper recently claimed King Juan Carlos had millions inherited from his father hidden away from tax authorities in Swiss bank accounts.

The 75 year-old King has also been in declining health since April 2012, when reports emerged that in the middle of Spain's recession he went on a not exactly politically correct jet-setter elephant-hunting safari in Botswana, where he fell and broke a hip. He subsequently had both hips replaced and last month he was in hospital for back surgery.

As AFP summed it up this week, recent events “have thrown the spotlight on the royal family's deluxe lifestyle and opaque fortune as Spain grapples with a record unemployment rate of 26 percent.”

The rain in Spain, indeed. 

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