Spanish King Juan Carlos's youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, has been hurled into the centre of a corruption scandal that swept up her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, and outraged the nation.
The blonde-haired, 48-year-old Cristina, once known for her easy smile, was summoned Tuesday to appear on March 8 before a court in Palma on the Mediterranean island of Majorca as a suspect in alleged tax and money-laundering crimes.
It will be the first time in modern history that a direct relative of the Spanish king has faced court as a suspect, dealing a grave blow to the prestige of the princess and a Spanish monarchy already reeling from a corruption scandal involving Cristina's husband Inaki Urdangarin.
The judge in Palma on the island of Majorca, Jose Castro, has been investigating Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player, since 2010.
Castro had summoned Cristina on suspicion of corruption linked to her husband's activities once before, in spring 2013, but that decision was overruled following an appeal by the prosecutor.
The judge then opened a new line of inquiry, scrutinising her tax declarations and bank accounts for incriminating travel, restaurant or family party expenses.
The image of the royals suffered during the investigation into Urdangarin and his former business partner Diego Torres, who are suspected of syphoning off money paid by regional governments to stage sports and tourism events to the non-profit Noos Institute, which Urdangarin chaired from 2004 to 2006.
Both men have denied any wrongdoing and neither has been formally charged with any crime.
Low profile royal
Cristina, who works as the director of social welfare programmes at Barcelona-based financial services group La Caixa's charitable foundation, has kept a low profile since the scandal broke.
La Caixa posted her to Geneva last year to coordinate its work with international agencies.
"The deterioration in Princess Cristina's image has no turning back, at least for a long time," Emilio de Diego, a history professor at Madrid's Complutense University, said before the latest summons.
"Princess Cristina has always been the wayward daughter of the family, I think some of the monarch's mistakes when it comes to family matters began there, by tolerating that she work at a private firm like La Caixa and collect a salary without renouncing her status as a princess," he added.
The corruption case has also ruined the public image of Urdangarin as the ideal son-in-law which he had enjoyed since he married Cristina in a lavish ceremony in Barcelona on October 4, 1997.
A fan of various sports, especially sailing, Cristina -- the seventh in line to the Spanish throne -- met Urdangarin at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where he was competing with Spain's handball team, which won a bronze medal.
"She likes muscular men who are athletic, tall and sexy," said Andrew Morton, the author of a biography on Princess Diana who recently published a book on Cristina and three other female members of Spain's royal family.
"She is enormously competitive and obstinate," he added.
In 2009, Cristina and her husband, along with their four children, moved from Barcelona to Washington where Urdangarin took up a job as an executive director of the US subsidiary of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica.
The couple, who were given the title of Duke and Duchess of Palma when they wed, were living in the United States when the allegations of corruption at the Noos Institute first broke in Spain.
In August 2012, the couple and their four children returned to Barcelona, where they own a mansion in the exclusive Pedralbes area that reportedly cost around six million euros ($8.0 million).
Half of that mansion has since been placed under a court embargo, along with other properties, to cover a 6.1-million-euro bond for Urdangarin's liability in the corruption case.
Date created : 2014-01-07