January 29, 2016 / 10:40 AM / in 2 years

Court rules tax fraud trial of Spain's Princess Cristina must go ahead

MADRID (Reuters) - The trial of Spain’s Princess Cristina on charges of tax fraud must go ahead, a court ruled on Friday, throwing out an appeal by her lawyers in a case that has badly damaged the image of the royal family.The 50-year-old sister of King Felipe is one of 18 people on trial following a six-year investigation into the Noos Foundation, a charity run by her husband Inaki Urdangarin.

Spain's Princess Cristina sits in court facing charges of tax fraud, as a long-running investigation into the business affairs of her husband Inaki Urdangarin goes to trial, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Cati Cladera/Pool

Prosecutors say Noos was used to embezzle millions of euros in public funds and that Urdangarin, who is also on trial, exploited his royal connections to win public contracts to stage events through the non-profit organization.

Cristina de Borbon is charged with two counts of being an accessory to tax fraud and, if found guilty, could face up to four years in prison for each charge - a maximum of eight years.

Her lawyers had asked judges to drop the criminal charges against her and the state prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence to back up the accusations.

But the court in Palma de Mallorca, where the trial is being held, said in a statement it was upholding the charges, which were filed by the ‘Clean Hands’ anti-graft organization using a Spanish legal instrument known as the ‘people’s accusation’.

Cristina de Borbon became the first Spanish royal to sit in the dock when she appeared in court in early January to answer preliminary questions.

“In the trial, we will continue to defend the innocence of the Princess with conviction and confidence,” her lawyer, Miquel Roca, told journalists outside the courtroom in Palma de Mallorca, adding that her defense would lodge further appeals whenever possible.

The case has added to public anger in Spain over high-level corruption scandals in business and political circles, at a time when many Spaniards are still struggling with unemployment in the wake of a severe economic downturn.

The accused are due to reappear in court for questioning in February.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Sarah White; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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