The case against Spain’s Princess Cristina for tax fraud and money laundering seems like a right royal mess.
Unlike British law, Spain allows judges and prosecutors to bring charges before courts if they suspect a crime.
Princess Cristina has already faced similar charges of aiding and abetting her husband, former Olympic handball star Inaki Urdangarin, with tax fraud charges relating to his charitable foundation.
Those charges were thrown out by a court in April last year, but Palma de Mallorca Examining Magistrate Jose Castro was given more time to look at the case against the princess.
Now, he has laid a 200-page indictment before a court – but this is again subject to review by a higher court and may well be thrown out.
Not only does the local prosecutor disagree with Castro’s assessment of the case against the princess, but legal experts suspect the total tax fraud by the princess is less than 120,000 euros, which makes the case a misdemeanour and not a felony in Spain.
Delving into the 200-pages of investigation, it seems Princess Cristina is accused of spending money from the foundation bank accounts for her own benefit.
The detailed spending analysis even covers the purchase of Harry Potter books and home furnishings.
“These sums were used on strictly personal spending and should have been declared in income tax statements. It is evident that neither Inaki Urdangarin nor Princess Cristina ever did so, which means they repeatedly defrauded the tax authority,” said Castro in his ruling.
Royals under fire
The Princess’s lawyers are protesting her innocence ahead of the court case on March 8 – which would be the first time a Spanish royal had faced a criminal trial. Urdangarin has also stated he is not guilty.
Many republicans in Spain see the case as another nail in the royalty’s coffin.
The king’s popularity has slumped in newspaper polls and some are calling for him to hand the throne to his heir Prince Felipe, who is not implicated in any wrongdoing.
Although a welcome replacement for the dead Fascist dictator Franco, since restoration to the throne in 1975, King Juan Carlos and other royals have come under fire for profligate spending at a time when the rest of the country has faced an austerity budget and European Union bail-out.
One PR faux pas saw the royals enjoying an African elephant hunting safari as the bailout negotiations were under discussion.