Princess Cristina returned to court in Palma this morning as defendants began to testify in the fraud trial that centres on her husband's business affairs. King Felipe's 50-year-old sister faces a full trial on tax fraud charges after an appeal by her lawyers was thrown out, unless an appeal to the Supreme Court changes the situation.
Cristina will be the last of 17 defendants to testify. It is not totally clear when in February she will take the stand, but 26 February has been mentioned. All of the accused, including her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, must sit through the statements in the public trial, meaning weeks of media scrutiny on the couple.
The court yesterday was interested in hearing the statements of José Luis Ballester, the former director of Balearic sports, who has declared his repentance with regard to his involvement. He said that he believed that Urdangarin had used their friendship - they were both Olympic sportsmen and have known each other since the Atlanta Games in 1996 - to gain access to contracts with the regional government. The principal evidence against Urdangarin and his ex-business partner, Diego Torres, includes invoices for sports forums that Nóos arranged: the sums are considered to have been vastly inflated. Ballester also said that former Balearic president, Jaume Matas (another of the accused), had told him "to dress the saint", by whom he meant Urdangarin.
Cristina and Urdangarin arrived together in a chauffeur-driven car with blacked-out rear windows and headed into the temporary courthouse in the School of Public Administration.
Cristina has been charged with two counts of being an accessory to tax fraud, which together carry sentences of up to eight years. The prosecution being brought is a private one, as the state does not consider that charges should be brought. Urdangarin is accused of nine crimes including fraud and tax evasion with a combined possible jail sentence of 19-and-a-half years. The trial centres on the Instituto Nóos, of which he was a co-founder. The charity was used to embezzle some six million euros of public funds, according to prosecutors.
King Felipe has cut off his sister from functions and since the abdication of King Juan Carlos she is no longer part of the Royal Family as such. Cristina has also been stripped of her title as Duchess of Palma, though she is yet to give up her right to the throne, for which she is seventh in line.
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