THE first main trial scheduled for this year will be one of the most anticipated for many years. It is the trial related to the so-called “caso Nóos” and is the result of investigations that Judge José Castro has led since 2010. Up to eighteen people stand accused, among them Princess Cristina and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin. If there are no agreements made during the initial proceedings (which will take a month), they will have to take the stand in a trial expected to last until the end of June.
The trial centres on the alleged diversion of 6.2 million euros of public money by Urdangarin and his former business partner, Diego Torres, via a complex web of shell companies, with the Instituto Nóos at the centre. The anti-corruption prosecution service is calling for sentences totalling more than one hundred years for the various accused, nineteen and a half of these for Urdangarin and sixteen and a half for Torres.
Princess Cristina, the King’s sister, faces eight years in prison, charged as having been a necessary accomplice in two tax offences. She is not, however, being charged by the state but by the “union” Manos Limpias. It believes that her role was imperative for her husband to have been able to defraud almost 340,000 euros of income tax for the years 2007 and 2008 via a company which they co-owned, Aizoon, this having been one of the “screen” businesses as part of the alleged plot by Urdangarin and Torres.
The prosecution does not believe that there are indications of a crime having been committed by the princess, albeit that she would have benefited from funds supposedly defrauded by her husband.
The first session of the trial is due to be devoted to her defence claim that the so-called Botin doctrine should be applied to the princess. Under this, it is argued that a trial cannot proceed if the prosecution is only private, which is the case with Manos Limpias. Neither the public prosecutor nor the Tax Agency has accused the princess of any crime. The princess will have to be in court while this defence submission is being considered.
The investigation by Judge Castro included examination of the princess’s accounts and movement of assets as well as requests to the Tax Agency and the National Police’s Financial Crime Squad. This led to her having been indicted (but only by the judge and not the prosecutor) in February 2014.
The trial has generated significant media interest, with up to 590 journalists and others as well as 84 media companies having been accredited. It will take place in a courtroom in the Balearic School of Public Administration in the Son Rossinyol industrial estate in Palma.
A total of 363 witnesses are expected to be called, among the former vice-premier, Rodrigo Rato and one-time senior officials from the Royal Household. A request for King Felipe to be a witness (made by the Torres defence) is unlikely to be met as the law does not oblige a monarch to declare.
Others of those accused include the ex-president of the Balearics, Jaume Matas, who faces a prosecution demand for eleven years imprisonment. The first to actually be called will be the former director general of sports in the Balearic government, José Luis Ballester. He has already expressed his repentance in the case, but will still take the stand on 9 February.
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