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Spanish princess in court over fraud claim

The daughter of King Juan Carlos appeared before judge to answer questions of alleged complicity in embezzlement.

Last updated: 08 Feb 2014 20:57
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The daughter of Spanish King Juan Carlos has given evidence in court over fraud allegations in a corruption scandal.

Princess Cristina, 48, appeared before a judge on Saturday for a closed-door hearing on the island of Majorca in the rare royal spectacle that has raised questions over the future of the monarchy.

The princess is accused of being complicit in the business dealings of her husband Inaki Urdangarin, who is also under investigation, but they have not been formally charged with any crime. Both of them deny wrongdoing.

Judge Jose Castro has spent more than two years investigating allegations that Urdangarian and a former business partner embezzled $8.18m in public funds via a charitable foundation.

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

State prosecutors say there is no case to answer against Cristina, but the judge has allowed suits brought by pressure groups.

After Saturday's hearing, Castro could formalise the charges and move to trial, or he could drop the charges or allow the princess to plea to lesser charges, Reuters news agency reported.

More than 200 extra police officers were on hand in Palma de Mallorca in case of protests near the courthouse and road blocks were put up in the neighbourhood.

Juan Carlos won widespread respect for helping steer Spain to democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

But the royals' popularity has plunged since the case against Urdangarin opened three years ago.

The king's woes were worsened by a luxury elephant-hunting trip he made to Africa in 2012 as his subjects suffered in a recession.

These scandals and the sight of the king looking frail and on crutches in his rare public appearances have raised debate about the future of his reign.

A recent poll showed 62 percent of Spaniards in favour of his abdication. Support for the monarchy in general fell to just under 50 percent.

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