Tax investigation results in trial of European royal family member

A lengthy and complex tax investigation has a resulted in a landmark court case, which sees the first ever European royal family member stand trial, faced with criminal charges for tax evasion.

Princess Cristina of Spain, the 50 year old sister of the recently crowned King Filipe, has been at the centre of a tax investigation which has made headline news around the world. The tax evasion and fraud charges, if proven, could lead to a lengthy jail sentence.

The princess, who is sixth in line to the Spanish throne, is accused of two counts of tax fraud along with her husband, Inaki Urdangarin and 16 other defendants, all of whom deny embezzlement, tax fraud and several other charges.

Urdangarin, an Olympic handball medallist-turned-businessman, is accused of using his Duke of Palma title to commit tax fraud, embezzling millions of euros in public contracts through a non-profit company he ran, Noos Institute.

The princess’ involvement is understood to relate to the fact that she was a member of the Noos Institute’s board. She also co-owned a property company entitled Aizoon, which prosecutors claim was a front for laundering the money that Urdangarin allegedly obtained illicitly.

Urdangarin, 47, is accused of embezzling public funds amounting to €5.6 million (£4.1 million) and is also accused of fraud, influence peddling and money laundering, as well as several other offences. Spain’s public prosecutor is pushing for a jail sentence of 19 years for the king’s brother-in-law.

The tax evasion charges against Princess Cristina are limited to the financial years 2007 and 2008. She could face up to eight years in prison if convicted.

Among the 16 other defendants in the case is Jaume Matas, a former government minister and former chief of the Balearic Islands’ regional government. Mr Matas faces up to 11 years in prison, according to the BBC, which says he has already served a nine-month prison sentence for corruption.

The case first came to light in 2010 as part of a tax investigation into corruption among regional-government officials in the Balearics. A year later the offices of Noos Institute were raided, dragging Spain’s increasingly unpopular royal family into the controversy.

King Juan Carlos abdicated in June 2014, with his son and successor King Felipe VI has sought to distance himself from his sister and brother-in-law. In July 2015, he stripped the princess of her title of Duchess, although she has, so far, refused to bow to pressure to renounce her right to the throne and remains sixth in succession.

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