Spanish princess cleared of suspicion in corruption probe
MADRID -- A Spanish court Tuesday dropped a subpoena of King Juan Carlos’ youngest daughter, citing insufficient evidence to tie her to alleged corruption by her husband.
The 47-year-old princess, Infanta Cristina, last month became the first direct descendant of a Spanish monarch to be summoned in a criminal case. Her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, is under investigation for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars in public funds through sports charities he ran.
The princess had been called to testify before a panel of judges about her role at Noos Institute, a nonprofit umbrella group Urdangarin ran from 2004 to 2006. Cristina was listed as a board member and advisor to Noos, though her husband has testified that she actually had little knowledge of his dealings there.
Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball champion, and his former business partner, Diego Torres, are accused of siphoning off at least $6.4 million in public donations earmarked for sports and cultural events organized through Noos. Both men deny the allegations.
Cristina was subpoenaed April 3, but the court suspended its proceedings against her two days later and postponed her April 27 court appearance. At the time, government ministers urged a quick resolution to the case and expressed concern that it might damage Spain’s reputation.
Tuesday’s 2-1 ruling by a three-judge appeals court on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca makes that stay permanent, and Cristina is no longer considered to be under investigation. However, the princess could be called for questioning in the future if new evidence about money-laundering or other financial crimes comes to light, a court document said.
Urdangarin was bestowed the royal title Duke of Palma upon his 1997 marriage to the princess, whom he had met at the Olympic Games in Atlanta a year earlier. Now accused of using that title to curry favor and commit fraud, Urdangarin has not appeared at any royal functions for more than a year and has since moved to the Persian Gulf country of Qatar. He and Cristina remain married, although she and the couple’s four children live in Barcelona.
The town of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands, wrote a letter to the royal palace earlier this year requesting that Urdangarin stop using his title. A street named after him there was also changed.
The palace had no immediate comment about Tuesday’s ruling. The nearly three-year corruption probe against Urdangarin, 45, is the latest in a series of scandals that have tarnished the royal family’s reputation and stirred up uncertainty about the future of the monarchy.
Juan Carlos has long been credited with keeping Spain intact through its transition to democracy after the 1975 death of military dictator Francisco Franco and a 1981 coup by military officers. But last spring, he was forced to issue an unprecedented apology for going elephant hunting in Africa while his country was mired in recession.
A monthly public opinion poll conducted by the Spanish government revealed that the royal family’s approval rating in April was just 37%, down about 12 percentage points in two years, but still higher than that of the government.
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