World

Princess Cristina testifies in Spain fraud case

Inquiry could further tarnish image of royals

Princess Cristina testified for nearly seven hours in closed-door session.
Jaime Reina/AFP Photo
Princess Cristina testified for nearly seven hours in closed-door session.

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain — In a historic judicial hearing that could further impact the deteriorated image of Spain’s monarchy, Princess Cristina testified Saturday in a fraud and money laundering case in which she and her husband could eventually be charged.

Judge Jose Castro will rule on whether Cristina, the first Spanish royal to be questioned in court since the monarchy was restored in 1975, illegally used funds from a company she owned with her husband for personal expenses, including lavish parties at their Barcelona mansion.

Hundreds of protesters blew whistles, revved motorcycle engines, honked car horns, and chanted ‘‘Out with the Spanish crown!’’ near the back entrance of the island courthouse where Cristina was dropped off in a modest hatchback.

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She briefly smiled and said ‘‘good morning’’ to a mob of journalists. Castro summoned her after naming her as a fraud and money laundering suspect.

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The closed-door session, which lasted nearly seven hours, was a key step in determining whether she will be charged, but a final decision could take months.

The use, or suspected abuse, of company funds to cover household expenses at the Barcelona home is among evidence Castro has compiled about Aizoon, the real estate and consulting firm Cristina co-owned with her husband.

Castro has referred to Aizoon in court paperwork as a ‘‘front company.’’

A lawyer representing an organization called Frente Civico, which has brought independent accusations against the princess, told reporters during a recess that Cristina seemed calm and well prepared.

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But Manuel Delgado also said Cristina was evasive and at times exercised a right not to admit facts that could hurt her defense.

Delgado declined to comment on Castro’s questions, but said the princess told the judge ‘‘she had great confidence in her husband.’’