Spain: Princess' husband used company card to pay for safari

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — Spanish Princess Cristina's husband was unable to explain in court Thursday how personal expenses such as safari trips and wine for him and his wife were billed to the credit card of a company they co-owned — but insisted he never knew he might have been doing anything questionable.

Testifying for a third day in a tax fraud-and-embezzlement trial, Inaki Urdangarin insisted that his wife never used the credit card for the Aizoon real estate consultancy the couple co-owned. He said he and other people used it and he passed the bills to his secretary at the company, which has been labeled a "front company" in court documents.

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. Seventeen people are charged in the case, including Urdangarin and the princess. His wife is scheduled to testify either later Thursday or Friday.

An investigative judge found that the couple never reported as income personal expenses billed to the company, but Urdangarin testified he relied on the advice of others for determining which expenses should be charged to Aizoon.

"I have never been aware of committing any tax offense because I had my advisers who told me everything was correct," Urdangarin said.

The couple enjoyed a lavish lifestyle from the Barcelona mansion they have since been forced to sell. The expenses charged to Aizoon cited in court included 15,797 euros ($17,174) for a safari trip to Africa, 6,672 euros for a coaching course for Cristina and 1,357 euros for wine.

Urdangarin said he had made Cristina a co-director of Aizoon because he wanted her to be part of his new project but he also insisted "she didn't have any that anything to do with the company's activities."

Legal experts say Cristina's defense relies on her saying she knew nothing about her husband's business activities. She faces two counts of tax fraud, which carry a maximum penalty of eight years in prison.

Urdangarin, who faces stiffer charges and a possible jail sentence of nearly 20 years, testified Wednesday that palace officials who worked for former King Juan Carlos oversaw the princess' tax filings and had detailed knowledge of his business operations.

Cristina is the sister of King Felipe VI, who took power in 2014 after his father abdicated. She is the first member of Spain's royal family to face criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.

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Giles contributed from Madrid.