Spain’s Princess Cristina appeared in court with husband Inaki Urdangarin on Monday on tax fraud charges, becoming the first member of the country’s royal family to face criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.
King Juan’s 50-year-old daughter is accused of two counts of tax fraud and is also on trial with 17 other people over the alleged embezzlement of millions of euros in public funds through the Noos charity foundation run by her husband.
High-levels of corruption among bankers and politicians along with Spain’s economic crisis, record unemployment and austerity measures created impetus for an investigation into the affairs of the royal family.
More serious charges are expected for husband Inaki Urdangarin following accusations he embezzled $6.5 million euros through Noos, which he ran with an associate, allegedly using his title as Duke of Palma to win public contracts.
Prosecutors say personal items ranging from parking tickets to children’s birthday parties were funded by transferring the foundation’s money to a company largely owned by Cristina and her husband.
Although the couple deny any wrongdoing, if found guilty the mother of four could face up to four years in prison for being an accessory to tax fraud while her husband could be charged with a potential jail sentence of up to 19 years for fraud and tax evasion.
The popularity of Spain’s royal family had revived since former king Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his 47-year-old son Felipe and his former television journalist wife.
Since being proclaimed king in 2014, Felipe has worked towards modernising the monarchy and taking duties away from his two sisters.
Princess Cristina’s title, the “Duchess of Palma,” was removed by her brother Felipe in June 2014.