News ID: 137697
Published: 0850 GMT March 02, 2016

Spain's former duke blames palace for fraud

Spain's former duke blames palace for fraud

The husband of Spain's Princess Cristina has said that palace officials oversaw the princess' tax dealings, linking them to a tax-and-embezzlement case in which the couple and 15 others are facing charges.

Inaki Urdangarin told prosecutors on Wednesday that he never made any decision without consultation with palace officials who were tasked with handling the princess’ financial and tax affairs.

The former Duke of Palma is accused along his wife Cristina, the sister of King Felipe VI, and 15 others of financial wrongdoing and tax fraud, especially through connections with the Noos Institute which is at the center of the trial.

If convicted, the couple could face a total of 28 years in prison, which would be the first case of imprisonment for members of the Spanish royal family since the monarchy was restored in the country in 1975.

Urdangarin said in his testimony to the court that one official representing the royal household always oversaw his wife's taxes over the years.

Diego Torres, a fellow suspect and former business partner of Urdangarin, who helped the royal found the Noos Institute, told prosecutors last week that the nonprofit organization presented its accounts for periodic approval to a palace lawyer as well as to tax inspectors.

Among the main accusations leveled against Urdangarin in the case is that he embezzled about 6 million euros (USD 6.6 million) in public contracts awarded to Noos for sports events from 2004 to 2007.

Aizoon, a real estate firm run by Cristina and Urdangarin and a major partner of Noos, largely benefited from the contracts. The court documents have named Aizoon as a “front company.”

Princess Cristina’s husband said Noos' billing of other companies was not his job. The former Olympics handball star-turned-entrepreneur also said during a Friday hearing that he wasn't aware of or couldn't recall many of the issues he had been questioned about.

The probe is regarded as significant in Spain, where many blame corruption as a major source of economic woes in the country.

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