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Spanish princess found not guilty, husband sentenced to six years for embezzlement

Princess Cristina, the sister of the Spanish king, was found not guilty of tax evasion but her husband was jailed for over six years on fraud charges. They were not in court when the sentence was announced.

Spanien Infantin Cristina (picture-alliance/dpa/EFE/C. Cladera)

Spanish King Felipe's 51-year-old sister, Cristina, had been charged with two counts of being an accessory to tax fraud. She was found not guilty by a court in Mallorca on Friday. However she was ordered to pay a fine because she had civil responsibilty.

Her husband Inaki Urdangarin had been charged with the more serious crimes of embezzlement, influence peddling, forgery and money laundering. He was sentenced to six years and three months in jail on charges of fraud and tax evasion, authorities said in a statement on their website. 

Urdangarin was accused with his former business partner, Diego Torres, of embezzling about six million euros ($6.4 million) in public funds. Torres was given an eight-and-a-half year sentence. 

Cristina was one of 18 defendants in the year-long trial which followed an investigation into her husband's non-profit organization, the Noos Foundation. 

Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball medallist, was accused of using his royal connections to win public contracts for events organized through the foundation. He was accused of overcharging for the events and hiding the proceeds abroad.

Spanien Prozess Infantin Cristina und Inaki Urdangarin (Reuters/M. del Pozo)

Inaki Urdangarin and Princess Cristina going to court last year

Prosecutors cited one instance when Urdangarin's company charged 1.2 million euros for a two-day tourism and sports event. It was "a completely disproportionate price" based on a "fictitious budget," they said.

Some of the funds were transferred to a private company which paid for personal family items such as vacations, home furnishings and theater tickets. The couple and their four children have lived in Switzerland since 2013. They had denied any wrongdoing.

Among the other accused were the former head of the Balearic Islands government and other high-ranking officials from the islands and the Mediterranean coastal region of Valencia.

Royal changes

The investigation, as well as his own lifestyle, led to the abdication of King Juan Carlos in 2014. While the country was in the midst of an economic crisis with an unemployment rate of 23 percent in 2012, Spanish newspapers published a photograph of the king during a hunting trip to Botswana. He was posing in front of a dead elephant, despite being honorary president of the WWF conservation group.

King Felipe stopped Cristina and her sister Elena from carrying out royal duties when he came to the throne in 2014. Cristina also lost her title of Duchess of Palma the following year.

jm/rt (Reuters, dpa)

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