KING Felipe's younger sister, the Infanta Cristina will not be able to avoid standing in the dock when the Nóos Institute public fund fraud trial gets fully under way.
Cristina – stripped of her Duchess of Palma title by her own brother over the far-reaching tax evasion and embezzlement investigations – was hoping a previous case precedent would enable her to stay away from the court building altogether.
The so-called 'Botín Doctrine', when applied, means an alleged offender does not have to go to the dock where the only criminal prosecution is a private one, as is the case with the Infanta Cristina for whom the anti-corruption association Manos Limpias is calling for eight years in jail.
She is not facing criminal prosecution from the State, since she has refunded the tax she allegedly defrauded by offsetting personal and home expenses against the inactive company Aizoon, S.L., which she was 50% owner of with her husband, Iñaki Urdangarín.
But the provincial court in Palma de Mallorca says the case is not just a crime affecting the tax authorities, but also the State as a whole.
“The presupposed need to ensure the fair distribution of public resources is a factor social and economic policy is committed to, and which should be guaranteed in a social and democratic state of law and legal rights and duties,” the verdict says.
It is not only the tax evasion aspect the Infanta is being investigated for – she is considered to have provided the necessary cooperation to ensure her husband's illegal activities were covered up.
Urdangarín and his co-director Diego Torres set up the Nóos Institute as a non-profit entity aimed at organising and promoting sports and cultural events, including a major cycling race in Valencia.
They billed the regional governments of Valencia and the Balearic Islands for their work, but inflated the invoices, pocketing the difference.
To account for the money, Urdangarín issued invoices for 'management consultation services' in the name of Aizoon, a company with no known commercial activity and no staff, jointly owned by the one-time Duke and Duchess of Palma.
The Infanta is said to have known about Aizoon's receiving the money for the non-existent consultation services, and where it really came from.
Her signature appears on contracts and other documents alongside that of Urdangarín in the company's name, but in a preliminary hearing she said she did not read or question any of these, but simply 'trusted her husband because she loved him'.
Urdangarín, who continues to live between the Barcelona area and Balearic Islands to be available for court hearings – whilst the Infanta and their children live in Geneva – could face up to 20 years in jail, as could his business partner Torres.
Given that public fund embezzlement effectively means stealing from Spain's 46 million inhabitants who contribute to and are entitled to benefit from this pot, the court in Palma says the accusations against her cannot be limited merely to a private prosecution.
The judge, along with the prosecutor Pedro Horrach, have been at loggerheads over whether or not the Infanta should be charged at all – with Horrach saying the court appeared to be merely trying to make an example of her because of who she was.
And the issue of whether or not she should appear in the dock has been in the air for some time ever since her defence lawyer cited the Botín Doctrine.
The Nóos case officially opened on January 11 and is expected to last around five-and-a-half months in total, with the accused parties due in court towards the end of February.