Spanish Princess Cristina in court for historic fraud trial

PALMA DE MALLORCA: Princess Cristina and her husband arrived at court Monday for the start of an historic trial that marks the first time a member of Spain's royal family has faced criminal charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.

The 50-year-old Cristina is accused of two counts of tax fraud carrying a maximum prison sentence of eight years for allegedly failing to declare taxes on personal expenses paid by a real estate company she owned with her husband.

She will sit in the dock with 17 others including her husband, Olympic handball medalist turned businessman Inaki Urdangarin.

He faces more serious charges of using his Duke of Palma title to embezzle about 6 million euros ($6.5 million) in public contracts through the nonprofit Noos Institute he ran with an associate.

The princess said nothing to dozens of reporters after arriving at a makeshift courtroom in Palma de Mallorca where the trial is being held.

Security was tight around the building after thousands of anti-monarchy protesters in 2014 staged noisy demonstrations while Cristina answered questions about the case posed by a investigative judge.

Authorities Monday morning detained one protester with an anti-monarchy flag a short time before Cristina showed up at the court inside a sedan with dark tinted windows.

There are so many defendants and lawyers plus reporters covering the case that judicial officials were forced to move the trial from a courthouse to a sprawling building complex on the outskirts of Palma de Mallorca normally used to hold mass training courses for public servants.

The case is being heard in the regional capital of Spain's Balearic Islands because many of Urdangarin's business deals were for the islands.

The princess and her husband are not expected to utter a word during the first few days of the trial as judges read out the 89 alleged crimes committed by the suspects, and lawyers including Cristina's make arguments aimed at having their clients removed from the case.

She denied knowledge of her husband's activities during the 2014 closed door court appearance and a prosecutor recommended she should be fined. But a judge decided Cristina could be charged with tax fraud in 2007 and 2008 because Spanish law allows groups to file charges when state prosecutors don't.

Her case was driven forward by the anti-corruption group Manos Limpias (Clean Hands).