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Spanish princess fronts court in royal fraud case

Spain’s Princess Cristina has appeared in court to answer questions in a corruption case. The investigation, also involving her husband Inaki Urdangarin, has intensified public anger toward the royal family.

Princess Cristina, King Juan Carlos' youngest daughter, was called to testify in a Palma de Mallorca court on Saturday after an investigation into alleged tax fraud and money laundering linked her to using funds from a shell company she co-owned with her husband, Inaki Urdangarin.

The closed-door hearing in the Balearic Islands capital is investigating allegations that the princess used proceeds from the Noos Institute, of which her husband is a partner, to fund items such as the renovation of their mansion in Barcelona.

The princess' appearance before the court is the first time a member of the Spanish royal family has been summoned to appear in a criminal hearing. Neither the princess nor her husband have been formally charged and both deny any wrongdoing. The investigating magistrate had formally named both as suspects, however, and summoned them for questioning.

The princess (pictured above entering the court) was granted special permission by the trial judge to be driven to the court house door, citing security concerns - a move which sparked public outrage as it meant she could avoid hundreds of journalists and television cameras waiting outside.

Meanwhile, her husband, a former Olympic handballer, is alleged to have used his royal connections to win no-bid contracts from the Balearic government to stage sports and marketing events.

Urdangarin also faces charges of embezzling 6 million euros ($8.17 million) of public money after claims he and his partners at the Noos Institute overcharged and billed for services they never provided.

More than 200 police officers are stationed outside the court room as public anger over claims of political corruption within the royal family deepens. Local media referred to the morning's events as a critical moment for the future and stability of the Spanish monarchy, which has come under public scrutiny during the economic crisis that swept the country.

jlw/msh (Reuters, AFP)