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Spanish princess charged in corruption case

Princess Cristina, sister of Spain’s King Felipe VI, was formally charged here Wednesday with tax evasion and money laundering in connection with her husband’s alleged embezzlement of public funds.
Investigating magistrate Jose Castro has named Cristina, husband Iñaki Urdangarin and 13 other people as defendants in the case, which centers on the royal in-law’s activities as chairman of the Noos Institute.
Urdangarin and his former partner, Diego Torres, are accused of siphoning off more than 6 million euros ($8.2 million) between 2003 and 2006 through the non-profit foundation.
News of the charges against Cristina comes a week after her father, Juan Carlos, abdicated in favor of 46-year-old Felipe.
In his case summary, the judge said he found «ample indications» that Cristina de Borbon, 49, personally profited from Urdangarin’s actions.
The princess’ involvement took the form of «silent collaboration» by way of her 50 percent stake in Aizoon, a corporation founded by Urdangarin, Castro said.
Investigators say Aizoon was used to launder funds that Urdangarin received from Spanish regional governments by using his royal connections to obtain lucrative, no-bid public contracts to organize sports and tourism conferences.
The history of Aizoon, which changed its legal domicile several times and had links to Noos-related companies, is difficult to reconcile with the nation of «a simple, homespun family entity,» the judge wrote.
Cristina spent more than six hours answering questions from Castro during a Feb. 8 closed-door hearing in Mallorca, becoming the first member of Spain’s royal family to testify as a suspect in a criminal case since the monarchy was reinstated in 1975.
The princess’ defense counsel, Miquel Roca, said Wednesday that he will ask a higher court to quash the charges against his client, which he described as baseless.
Also planning to challenge the charges against Cristina is the chief anti-corruption prosecutor for the Balearic Islands region, Pedro Horrach, who told Efe that the princess has been treated «unfairly.»
The Provincial Court of Palma will ultimately decide whether to allow the case against Cristina to proceed.
The royal palace reacted to the announcement of the charges with a statement emphasizing the monarchy’s «full respect for the independence of the judiciary.»
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s center-right government echoed that sentiment.
«In this country the law is the same for everyone,» Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said, recalling that King Felipe VI stressed the value of judicial independence during the first formal address of his reign.