A courtroom fit for Princess Cristina … and a HK$63 million fraud case

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 February, 2014, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 4:27am

Spanish King Juan Carlos's daughter Cristina entered court smiling under the gaze of the world's media yesterday to answer fraud accusations, a historic first for the troubled royal family.

After stepping out of a dark car, the blonde-haired princess walked the final few steps into a court in Palma de Majorca, nodding to television crews, photographers and reporters crowded near the door.

Dressed in a white shirt and black jacket, the 48-year-old princess appeared relaxed as she headed into the closed-door hearing into allegations of tax fraud and money-laundering.

Scores of pro-republican protesters rallied just outside a police-patrolled exclusion zone, brandishing banners with slogans such as "Royal blood unreal justice" or "Heads of state by the ballot, not the cradle".

"They earn enough money and it seems they want more," said one protester, 70-year-old Rafaela Garcia.

The rare royal spectacle unfolded on a warm winter's day under sunny skies, on an island where for decades Cristina's family sunbathed and sailed yachts during carefree summers.

Now the island is at the centre of an embarrassing scandal that has turned public opinion against the royals and raised doubts over the future of the monarchy.

Unlike most suspects, the court granted Cristina the right to drive down a paved ramp to the court entrance, citing security concerns raised by the police.

This spared the princess a longer, more humiliating walk in front of the media's lenses.

Long thought untouchable as a royal, Cristina finds herself accused of complicity in the allegedly fraudulent business dealings of her husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin. Neither has been formally charged. Both deny wrongdoing.

Judge Jose Castro has spent more than two years investigating allegations that Urdangarin and a former business partner embezzled €6 million (HK$63 million) in public funds via a charitable foundation.