Judge maintains tax fraud charges against Spanish princess

MADRID, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Judge Jose Castro, in charge of the Noos corruption scandal, decided on Wednesday to maintain charges of tax fraud and money laundering against Infanta Cristiana, the younger sister of King Felipe VI of Spain.

This decision, taken in the court in Palma de Mallorca, means Cristiana will be tried alongside her husband Inaki Urgangarin and others involved in the case. The accused include Urdangarin's former partner Diego Torres, Torres' wife Ana Maria Tejeiro as well as Jaume Matas, the former president of the Balearic Islands.

The Noos case alludes to the supposed fraud of around 6 million euros (8.1 million U.S. dollars) of public funds from the regional governments of the Balearic Islands and the Community of Valencia through the Noos Institute. This was a supposedly non-profit organization set up by Urdangarin and Torres with Cristiana as a member of the board of directors.

Cristiana was first implicated in the Noos case in April 2013 when Judge Castro considered her "cooperation to be necessary." However, the decision was overturned a month later on appeal from the Spanish anti-corruption prosecutor, who did not consider there were "clear indications" the daughter of former king Juan Carlos knew about the "criminal plan" supposedly carried out by her husband and Torres.

It was not until January 2014 that Judge Castro charged Cristina with tax fraud and money laundering explaining that Urdangarin could not have committed the offenses on his own without her "knowledge and acquiescence."

The pair are accused of using a company known as Aizoon, in which they each had a 50 percent share, to divert public funds and play their personal expenses.

Cristiana was questioned by the judge on Feb. 8 where she denied any knowledge of fraud. She said she had trusted Urdangarin and merely signed the papers he had placed in front of her.

Judge Castro's decision to retain charges against Cristiana open the door to her appearing in court, but the decision is still open to appeal both in the court where he announced his decision on Wednesday and also in the provincial court in Palma.

Spain's anti-corruption prosecutor is expected to appeal against the decision and as such it is unlikely a court hearing would begin before September even if charges are maintained.

The Spanish Royal household on Wednesday rapidly issued a communique stating it "respected the independence of the judiciary."

However, the court decision is most likely to be viewed as an embarrassment to the royal institutions less than a week after Felipe was proclaimed king in the wake of Juan Carlos' decision to abdicate at the start of the month.