For A Spanish Princess, An Indictment On Laundering Charges

Just days after her brother's coronation, Spanish Princess Infanta Cristina has been charged with money laundering. She faces 11 years behind bars for allegedly embezzling public money through fake charities created with her husband. It will be the first-ever criminal trial of a Spanish royal, and it comes at a time when the monarchy's popularity is at a historic low.

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The sister of Spain's new King is in trouble. she's been indicted for tax fraud and money laundering. She could face up to 11 years in prison if convicted. It'll be a historic trial and a headache for her brother, who took the throne less than a week ago. From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: She was conspicuously absent from all the royal ceremonies, her father's abdication and her brother's proclamation as the new King last week in Madrid. Infanta Cristina - one of the new monarch's two older sisters. Among the new king's promises...

(Foreign language spoken.)

FRAYER: A renovated monarchy for a new era marked by integrity and transparency, King Felipe pledged. It was a veiled reference to what's been going on in his family. His sister Cristina and her husband have been under investigation for years for allegedly misusing public donations to sports charities they ran. Today, a judge indicted them. Beatriz Goena, an expert on Spanish law, says the princess faces two counts - tax fraud and money laundering.

BEATRIZ GOENA: She didn't pay to the public administration, which she was supposed to pay. And then the other crime she's accused of is relating to money laundering. They said that they were using some money for some business things, and apparently they were using it for reforming the house where they lived or organizing some kind of parties or these sort of things.

FRAYER: The penalty for most fiscal crimes in Spain is a hefty fine. But Cristina's charges are serious enough to get her up to 11 years behind bars. And her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, facing nine charges, would likely serve even more. Cristina's lawyer's strategy has been to blame her husband, even though the princess was co-owner of his business.

WILLIAM CHISLETT: If you sign documents along with your husband, it is assumed that you know that what you are signing, so ignorance is not an excuse.

FRAYER: William Chislett is a former journalist who writes book about Spain and knows the royal family personally.

CHISLETT: It is an open secret that the new king is extremely angry with the antics of his brother-in-law. And the announcement today must have played into the former king's decision to abdicate. I mean, we know that this announcement was going to be made.

FRAYER: Less than a week ago, Spaniards gathered here in front of the royal palace to cheer their new monarch, King Felipe the Sixth. Now they're here in the same square bemoaning his bad luck to get the job when he did. There's the bad economy, youth unemployment over 50 percent, regions like Catalonia that want to break away from Spain and now his sister might go to jail.

GUILLERMO BERRIOCHOA: It's horrible for the monarchy because they have many problems. Inside, it's family and outside with the regions who wants to get his independence.

FRAYER: Guillermo Berriochoa is 48 and unemployed. He says he doesn't buy it that Cristina might not have known the nature of her husband's business dealings.

BERRIOCHOA: She's not stupid. She knew perfectly well what was going on. She accepted the situation and probably not the consequences.

FRAYER: The princess and her husband both deny any wrongdoing. Their lawyers say they'll appeal. No trial date is set. Until then, Infanta Cristina - the Duchess of Palma de Mallorca - is still sixth in line for the Spanish throne. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

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