Spain’s Princess Cristina faces historic tax fraud trial

MADRID: Visits to the palm-dotted Mediterranean island of Mallorca for Spain’s Princess Cristina used to mean luxurious stays at the seaside Marivent Palace  but the sister of King Felipe VI won’t get anywhere near the royal family’s official summer residence in a trip this week.

Instead, the 50-year-old princess and her husband are set to face anti-monarchy protesters and hordes of media Monday as they enter a makeshift courtroom and she makes history in front of millions of Spanish TV viewers as the first royal family member to face criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.

Following the tax fraud trial expected to last six months, the princess could face up to eight years in prison if a three-member panel of judges agrees the couple abused a real estate consulting firm described in court papers as a “front company” to bankroll a lavish lifestyle — including parties at their modernist Barcelona mansion, salsa dancing classes and vacations at expensive hotels.

 Cristina and her husband, Olympic handball medalist turned businessman Inaki Urdangarin, will sit in the dock alongside 16 others in the case centering on allegations that Urdangarin used his Duke of Palma title to embezzle about 6 million euros ($6.5 million) in public contracts through the Noos Institute. It was the nonprofit foundation he set up with a business partner to broker seminars and sports events as a tourism lure.