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Spain’s Princess Cristina, testifying in tax fraud case, says her husband handled business affairs

Spain's Princess Cristina takes the stand in her tax fraud trial in Mallorca.

Spain’s Princess Cristina takes the stand in her tax fraud trial in Mallorca.

(Jaime Reina / AFP/Getty Images)

Spain’s Princess Cristina testified Thursday in her tax fraud trial, saying she trusted her husband to handle their business affairs when she was busy caring for their children, but refusing to answer questions about why family expenses were charged to a company credit card.

Cristina, 50, is the first Spanish royal to go on trial, and this is the first time she has publicly addressed the charges against her — two counts of tax fraud, which carry up to eight years in prison. She is one of 17 defendants on trial, including her husband, former Olympic handball medalist Iñaki Urdangarin, who is charged with laundering $6.6 million in public funds and could go to prison for 19 1/2 years.

Broadcast live on Spanish TV, the trial has mesmerized and disgusted Spaniards since it began Jan. 11, with testimony about alleged embezzlement and fraud by a cadre of top businessmen, politicians and royals — all of which came to light at the height of the nation’s economic crisis. It is being held on the glitzy Mediterranean island of Mallorca, where some of the alleged crimes took place.

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After weeks of testimony from her codefendants, Cristina — one of King Felipe VI’s two older sisters — took the stand late Thursday but invoked her legal right to refuse to answer questions from a plaintiff’s lawyer. Spanish law allows private groups to press criminal charges even when authorities decide not to, and the case against Cristina was brought by an anticorruption group called Manos Limpias, or “Clean Hands.”

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“Does this receipt correspond to a car you rented while living in Washington D.C.?” asked Manos Limpias lawyer Virginia Lopez Negrete, displaying on an overhead projector receipts for the couple’s personal expenses, allegedly charged to Aizoon, a real estate company co-owned by Cristina and her husband. Other expenses included renovations to their Barcelona mansion, salsa dancing lessons, a $17,000 safari vacation in Africa and nearly $1,500 in wine.

The princess remained silent for 35 minutes as Lopez Negrete asked dozens of questions and introduced evidence.

Agreeing to speak only in response to questions from her own lawyer, Cristina said that Aizoon was created “to channel the professional income of my husband,” but that she never participated in any of its activities. Asked why she owned 50% of the company, the princess replied: “My husband asked me to do it, and I agreed.”

“At that time my children were very small and we were very busy,” Cristina said. “He was in charge of the family expenses. I didn’t get involved in that.”

Court documents refer to Aizoon as a “front company” through which Urdangarin allegedly funneled public donations made to a sports foundation he ran.

During three days of his own testimony, Urdangarin denied any wrongdoing and said palace officials supervised his business deals but never interfered.

“I have never been aware of committing any tax offense because my advisors told me everything was correct,” he said. Cristina later testified that she “trusts fully” in her husband “and in his innocence.”

King Felipe has sought to cast himself and his siblings as modern royals — humbler and less expensive to taxpayers than their father, King Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 after a luxury elephant hunt in Africa that soured his popularity. Cristina, a mother of four with a master’s degree from New York University, holds a full-time job in Geneva at a Spanish bank’s charitable foundation.

But since ascending the throne and in light of the investigation against his sister and her husband, Felipe has stripped the couple of their titles as Duke and Duchess of Palma and cut them out of the royal budget. And Mallorca’s capital, Palma, changed the name of a local street named after the couple.

Frayer is a special correspondent.

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