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Spanish court summons king's daughter over financial crimes

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-07

A Spanish court on Tuesday summoned King Juan Carlos' youngest daughter, Cristina, to answer allegations of suspected tax evasion and money laundering.

The allegations against Cristina, 48, involve her links to a charity run by her husband and a company that the couple jointly owns.

Cristina's husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, has been under investigation on suspicion of embezzling public funds since 2010.

Judge Jose Castro has been investigating claims that Urdangarin and a former business partner embezzled €6 million ($8 million) in public funds via the Noos Institute, a charitable foundation that Urdangarin chaired.

Cristina was a member of Noos' board and, with her husband, jointly owned another company, Aizoon, which investigators suspect served as a front for laundering the embezzled funds.

Castro overruled opposition from the public prosecutor in summoning Cristina to appear.

In a written ruling, the judge said he had decided to hear Cristina's testimony "about alleged tax and money laundering crimes" and summoned her to appear on March 8.

The Majorca court’s decision is a major blow to the prestige of the Spanish king, who became head of state after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975 and helped guide the country's transition to democracy, for which he is widely respected.

Battling scandal and ill health, Juan Carlos, 76, appeared tired as he presided over a military parade while on crutches Monday, his first public appearance since undergoing an operation to replace his left hip on November 21.

A palace spokesman told AFP he wanted to express his "respect for judicial decisions" but declined further comment.

Manos Limpias, a litigious far-right pressure group, lodged the suit against Cristina alleging tax evasion and money laundering, although tax authorities have not brought any charges and public prosecutors have said there is no case to answer.

Support for royals falling

Cristina was summoned on suspicion of corruption once before, in spring 2012, but that decision was overruled following an appeal by the prosecutor.

The king’s standing among Spaniards has been damaged by the corruption allegations as well as outrage over a luxury African elephant-hunting safari he took in 2012.

Those scandals, compounded by his health problems, have raised speculation about the future of his reign.

The number of people with a high or very high opinion of the king fell nine points over 2013 to 41 percent, according to a poll published on Sunday in daily newspaper El Mundo.

Meanwhile, the number of people wanting him to abdicate in favour of Prince Felipe surged by 17 percent to 62 percent, according to a Sigma Dos study carried out in late December.

The poll showed 66 percent had a positive view of the 45-year-old prince and 56 percent thought he could improve the royal image if he took over.

General support for the monarchy as an institution, however, fell below half to 49.9 percent, according to the poll.

The royal palace and the king have firmly denied any thoughts of an abdication.

"I want to express to you, as king of Spain, my determination to continue the faithful fulfilment of the mandate and the powers attributed to me," the king said in his annual televised Christmas Eve address last month.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


Date created : 2014-01-07