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Spain's Princess Cristina to testify in financial corruption case

By Al Goodman, CNN
January 13, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Princess Cristina and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, are shown in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in 2011.
Princess Cristina and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, are shown in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Princess Cristina, King Juan Carlos' youngest daughter, won't appeal preliminary charges
  • She'll be first direct royal family member to testify in court amid preliminary charges for a crime
  • Husband, Inaki Urdangarin, also faces preliminary charges in the case; both deny wrongdoing
  • Judge is investigating whether funds from Urdangarin's nonprofit went for private use

Madrid (CNN) -- The youngest daughter of Spain's King Juan Carlos won't appeal preliminary charges against her for alleged financial crimes, and will give unprecedented testimony before a judge on February 8, a court and her lawyers said Monday.

Princess Cristina will be the first direct member of Spain's royal family to testify in court while facing preliminary charges for a crime, Spain's royal household confirmed.

Her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, the King's son-in-law, already faces preliminary charges in the same case. He testified last February about his business dealings and the alleged diversion of public funds that have been at the center of a judge's investigation.

The princess and her husband, through their legal teams, deny any wrongdoing.

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Judge Jose Castro is leading the investigation at a local court in Palma de Mallorca, in Spain's Balearic Islands.

In April, the magistrate brought preliminary charges against the princess in this case, but they were dropped in May after prosecutors appealed to a provincial court, citing insufficient evidence.

But Castro continued his investigation and on Tuesday, in a 227-page order, again leveled preliminary charges against her. Before that, prosecutors said publicly they would oppose the renewed preliminary charges. On Tuesday, the princess's lawyers vowed to appeal again to a provincial court.

But in recent days, there was a sudden change of position.

In a prepared statement Saturday, the princess's lawyers said that an appeal of the preliminary charges would have "collateral effects" for the princess by dragging out the process and that she had decided to "appear voluntarily" before the judge, who initially set March 8 as the court date.

On Monday, the judge told reporters that given the new situation, he felt obliged to move up the court date, to February 8. That's a Saturday, and, as with her husband last year, authorities think a weekend day is a better time for the court appearance in central Palma de Mallorca, given the intense media attention, a court spokeswoman said.

The case centers on Urdangarin's nonprofit foundation, which obtained public contracts from regional governments to stage sports and tourism events. The judge is investigating whether some of those funds were diverted for private use.

The judge wants to question the princess about alleged tax fraud and money laundering through a company she had with her husband. He seeks to determine how much knowledge or participation the princess may have had in this company's activities, according to the court order last Tuesday.

The preliminary charges eventually could be dropped, but a filing of indictments would set a trial in motion.

Urdangarin, an Olympic medalist in handball, was granted the title of duke of Palma when he married Princess Cristina in 1997.

The fraud scandal has created unprecedented problems for Spain's popular royal family and kept the country riveted. There have been open calls for the King, 76, to abdicate in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe, 45, who is seen as untouched by this and other scandals. But the royal household has said the King does not plan to abdicate.

In April, the royal household revealed that it had asked the government in February 2013 to include the monarchy in a new law on transparency -- regarding financing and other activities.

The government approved the law in September.

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