Spain Princess at Tax Fraud Trial: My Husband Paid the Bills

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) -

Spain’s Princess Cristina testified Thursday at her tax-fraud trial that her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, handled all bill payments for the couple and she didn’t know why some costs for their lavish lifestyle including an African safari and more than 1,000 euros ($1,100) for wine were charged to a credit card for a company they co-owned.

The princess spent about 20 minutes answering questions from her lawyer aimed at distancing her from involvement with Aizoon, the real-estate consulting company Urdangarin ran from an office inside the Barcelona mansion they lived in for years with their four children but were forced to sell as their legal troubles mounted.

Asked by her lawyer why she never talked with her husband about what the company did, Cristina responded that “they weren’t issues that interested me. At that time my children were very small and we were very busy.”

“He was in charge of the family expenses. I didn’t get involved in that,” she added.

The case centers on accusations that Urdangarin used his former title of Duke of Palma to embezzle about 6 million euros ($6.6 million) in public funds for the nonprofit Noos Institute he ran with a partner that put on sport conferences. Seventeen people are charged, including Urdangarin and the princess.

Money went from Noos to Aizoon, which Urdangarin and the princess testified was set up to receive his income. A three-judge panel hearing the case will weigh whether the couple criminally abused Aizoon, described in court papers as a “front company” that may have funded luxury vacations and parties at the couple’s modernist mansion along with other expenses.

Immediately after taking the stand, Cristina invoked her right to answer only questions posed by her own lawyer and sat silently and listened, but didn’t respond to questions posed by a lawyer for the group that leveled the tax-fraud charges.

Under Spanish law, groups like the Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) organization involved in the princess’s trial can pursue criminal charges against people when authorities decide not to do so. Prosecutors had recommended not charging the princess, saying she should face an administrative fine at most.

The Manos Limpias lawyer, Virginia Lopez Negrete, told the princess she would have asked her about Aizoon and for explanations about personal and business expenses.

Cristina’s much-anticipated appearance came after Urdangarin wrapped up three days of testimony and was unable to explain in court how personal expenses like the safari trip and the wine were billed to the Aizoon credit card.

But Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball medalist-turned-entrepreneur, insisted he never knew he might have been doing anything questionable.

Cristina faces two counts of tax fraud, each carrying a maximum jail sentence of four years. She is the first member of Spain’s royal family to face criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975. Urdangarin faces stiffer charges and a possible jail sentence of nearly 20 years.