Members from the Civic Unity for the Republic protest outside court. The Infanta Cristina, the sister of the king of Spain, has arrived at a court in Mallorca where she is appearing on charges of tax evasion, the first time a member of the royal family has been arraigned in court.
Cristina Federica Victoria Antonia de la Santísima Trinidad de Borbón y de Grecia – her full title – and 17 co-defendants face 89 charges ranging from fraud and money laundering to trafficking of influences.
It is alleged that the sixth in line to the Spanish throne was complicit in the illegal business affairs of her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball champion. The trial will be presided over by three female judges.
Cristina and Urdangarin said nothing as they entered a makeshift courthouse amid tight police security aimed at keeping anti-monarchy protesters away. One protester with an anti-monarchy flag was detained a short time before their arrival.
Urdangarin is suspected, along with a former business partner Diego Torres, of exploiting his royal connections to win fraudulent publicly funded contracts worth €5.8m through the Instituto Nóos, a not-for-profit organisation that organised sport and tourism conferences in the Balearic islands.
Investigators allege that €2.6m was embezzled and laundered through a shell company that Cristina co-owned with her husband. Both deny any wrongdoing.
The prosecution alleges that Cristina could not have been unaware of her husband’s allegedly dubious business dealings. Questioned in court in February 2014 she said she took her husband at his word and during six hours of questioning replied “I don’t know” 188 times and “I don’t remember” on 55 occasions.
In a new twist, Torres claimed in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday night that he, Urdangarin and Cristina are all innocent because everything they did was done with the approval of the palace.
“The palace looked at what we were doing and said ‘very good, excellent, keep it up’. They guided us all along,” Torres said during the interview.
As Cristina has been ostracised by the palace and stripped of her title of Duchess of Palma by her brother, her sense of family loyalty may have worn thin and she may well go along with Torres’s version of events.
However, her lawyers are expected to mount a defence based on the “Botín doctrine”, named after the former head of Banco Santander, Emilio Botín.
The doctrine states that if a case is brought by popular action and not by the state the defendant does not have to stand trial. The case against Cristina has been brought by the pseudo trade union Manos Limpias (Clean Hands).
Jaume Matas, the former president of the Balearic Islands, is among the accused and faces charges of perverting the course of justice, fraud, embezzlement and trafficking in influences.
He has offered to give up his €2.6m home to “make good the damage done by Nóos” and to avoid the prospect of spending the next 11 years in jail.
The case, which first surfaced in 2010, has damaged the Spanish royal family and was a factor in King Juan Carlos’s abdication in June 2014 when the crown’s reputation was at its lowest in decades. Its image has improved over the past 18 months under Felipe VI but Cristina remains popular and was being touted as Spain’s Princess Diana when she married in 1997.
The indictment runs to 70,000 pages and 363 witnesses are due to be called. The court refused to admit demands that the current and former kings give evidence.