Princess Cristina, the youngest daughter of Spanish King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia, has been implicated in a long running corruption case involving her husband, former handball player Iñaki Urdangarin, who has been accused of siphoning off 5 million euros of public funds received by his charitable foundations and companies.
The money was paid by regional governments between 2004 and 2006 to the non-profit Nóos Foundation, headed by Mr Urdangarin, in order to stage sports and tourism events.
The office of investigating magistrate Jose Castro announced on Wednesday that the Princess was to face preliminary charges in the case, after he received emails which purport to show that the Princess was complicit in and aware of her husband’s alleged activities.
The emails were handed over to the judge by Mr Urdangarin’s former business partner and co-accused Diego Torres (not to be confused with the footballer of the same name), who was reportedly angry that his own wife was to face charges, but the Princess had so far escaped investigation.
An attempt by the Princess’s lawyers to have the emails ruled inadmissible was denied by the judge, who noted that neither the Princess nor her husband disputed that the emails were genuine.
The court case is a severe embarrassment to the embattled Spanish monarchy, whose popularity has crashed in recent years as public anger has grown over the opulent lifestyles and legal impunity of the royal family at a time when millions of Spaniards are struggling to cope in the midst of a severe recession.
Last year King Juan Carlos came under intense criticism after he fell and broke his leg while on a hunting trip to Botswana to shoot elephants. It emerged that the King was enjoying a “freebie” in a luxury hotel while thousands of his subjects were losing their homes as a result of the financial crisis.