Spain: Princess' husband links palace aides to fraud case

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MADRID (AP) — The husband of Spain's Princess Cristina told a court Wednesday that palace officials oversaw the princess' tax dealings and were aware of his business operations at the Noos Institute, which is at the center of the tax-and-embezzlement trial in which the couple and 15 others are accused.

Inaki Urdangarin told prosecutors he never made any decisions without consulting one palace official who handled the princess' affairs and that another official representing the royal household over saw his wife's taxes.

Cristina, sister of King Felipe VI, is the first Spanish royal to face criminal charges since the monarchy's 1975 restoration.

Her husband's testimony coincided with that of fellow accused and former business partner Diego Torres, who told the court last week that the nonprofit Noos Institute he founded with Urdangarin presented its accounts for periodic approval to a palace lawyer as well as to tax inspectors.

The case centers on accusations that Urdangarin — a former Olympics handball star-turned-entrepreneur — used his former title of Duke of Palma to embezzle about 6 million euros ($6.6 million) in public contracts awarded the institute for sporting events between 2004 and 2007. Urdangarin faces a possible sentence of nearly 20 years.

One of the companies that allegedly benefited from Noos was Aizoon, a real estate firm Urdangarin owned with Cristina, which has been labeled a "front company" in court documents.

Urdangarin's testimony will be followed by that of another defendant before Cristina, who faces two charges of tax fraud, testifies. The princess faces a possible eight-year sentence.

Earlier, Urdangarin told the court he had nothing to do with Noos' billing of other companies, saying, "that was not my job."

In his first day of testimony on Friday, Urdangarin said he wasn't aware of or couldn't recall many of the issues he was questioned about.

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This story has been corrected to show the number of people on trial is 17, not 18.