By Alan Clendenning and Emilio Morenatti , AP
PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain–A landmark fraud trial opened Monday for Spain’s Princess Cristina, accused of helping bankroll a lavish lifestyle with funds her husband received from an alleged scheme to embezzle millions from public contracts for conferences and sporting events.
Cristina and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, said nothing to dozens of reporters as the couple entered a makeshift courthouse amid tight police security aimed at keeping anti-monarchy protesters away.
The two then sat silently among a group of 16 other defendants as a judge read out the charges for the historic trial, which marks the first time that a member of Spain’s royal family has faced criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.
Urdangarin and other are accused of embezzling up to 6.2 million euros (US$6.8 million) from contracts which were inflated or never performed.
The 50-year-old Cristina faces two counts of tax fraud, carrying a maximum prison sentence of eight years, for allegedly failing to declare taxes on personal expenses paid by a real estate company she owned with Urdangarin, an Olympic handball medalist turned businessman.
He faces more serious charges of using his former Duke of Palma title to land public contracts from politicians through the nonprofit Noos Institute he ran with an associate.
Authorities Monday morning detained one protester with an anti-monarchy flag a short time before Cristina showed up at the court inside a sedan with dark tinted windows. A small group was allowed to protest nearby after the proceedings began.
Thousands of anti-monarchy protesters staged noisy demonstrations in 2014 while Cristina answered questions about the case posed by an investigative judge.
One of her lawyers argued in court Monday that a Spanish legal precedent should be applied to her case that allows tax fraud cases to be dropped when they are not initiated by prosecutors.