Spain: Princess Cristina's tax fraud accuser jailed, no bail

AP News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2016 4:58 PM

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish judge on Monday ordered the leader of the anti-corruption group that filed tax fraud charges against Princess Cristina jailed without bail amid allegations the group sought a payoff of 3 million euros ($3.4 million) to drop the case and end her ongoing trial.

Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) director Miguel Bernad is under investigation for extortion, threats and membership in a criminal organization, Judge Santiago Pedraz said in ruling that also ordered Bernad and another man allegedly involved in the extortion scheme jailed amid concerns they might try to flee.

Pedraz said in court documents that the other man, Luiz Pineda, contacted the bank that Cristina works for and a bank that her lawyer serves in February and March as Cristina's trial was underway. Money was demanded in return for a commitment by Manos Limpias to drop the charges it has pursued against the sister of King Felipe VI, the documents said.

Manos Limpias had been allowed under a quirk in Spanish law allowing groups to file charges when officials do not to pursue tax fraud charges punishable by up to eight years in prison against Cristina after prosecutors declined to do so, saying Cristina should face an administrative fine at most. An investigating judge sided with Manos Limpias in deciding Cristina should be tried.

Her trial is currently underway in the city of Palma de Mallorca. Testimony continued Monday without her presence, which is not required at this stage during witness testimony.

The landmark trial started in January, with Cristina appearing in court and answering questions as the first member of Spain's royal family facing charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.

She is accused of failing to declare as income personal expenses paid by a real estate company she owned with her husband Inaki Urdangarin, an Olympic handball medalist-turned-businessman. Urdangarin, in the same trial, face charges of embezzling up to 6.2 million euros ($6.8 million) from contracts for sports conferences and events that were allegedly inflated or never performed.

The princess' husband, formerly the Duke of Palma, is accused of using his title to land the deals for the nonprofit Noos Institute he ran with business partner Diego Torres.

Lawyers for Cristina, Urdangarin and Torres say they are innocent.

A court official who spoke on condition of anonymity Monday night because of policy couldn't provide the name of Bernad's lawyer.

Manos Limpias didn't respond to an emailed message seeking comment.