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An investigating judge recommended that Princess Cristina of Spain, sister of King Felipe VI, be charged in a tax fraud and money laundering case that has helped inflame opposition to the monarchy.
Infanta Cristina, 49, was questioned in court in February about the business dealings of her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, and could now face trial.
However, an appeal has been lodged against the decision.
The judge’s ruling will come as an embarrassment to Felipe VI, who came to the throne only six days ago.
The tax fraud case was one of several scandals that weakened the popularity of the Spanish monarchy and prompted the abdication of King Juan Carlos.
Princess Cristina’s appearance in court in Mallorca was unprecedented for the royal family and if she goes to trial, she could face up to 11 years in jail.
Princess Cristina’s appearance in court in Mallorca was unprecedented for the royal family and if she goes to trial
The investigating judge’s decision is a major development in this investigation and a huge embarrassment for the Spanish royal family.
Judge Jose Castro believes Infanta Cristina knew more than she has let on regarding the allegedly corrupt activities of her husband, Inaki Urdangarin.
This inquiry has now lasted more than three years and during that time it has heavily eroded the popularity of the royal family. Princess Cristina has already appeared in court to testify, but the door is now open for her to face trial, which would take the scandal to a new level.
Judge Jose Castro has been investigating allegations that the princess’s husband embezzled millions in public funds with a former business partner.
Inaki Urdangarin, who is the Duke of Palma, and Diego Torres were alleged to have received 5.6 million euros ($7.5 million) by overcharging regional governments for organizing sporting events as part of a not-for-profit organization called Noos.
Announcing his decision, Judge Jose Castro said the princess should be tried alongside her husband and other suspects.
Anti-corruption prosecutors had already opposed his decision to name Princess Cristina as a suspect, saying there was insufficient evidence against her. Prosecutor Pedro Horrach said on Wednesday an appeal was being lodged “because there is still no piece [of evidence] against” the princess.
A final decision on whether Princess Cristina should stand trial will be made by the provincial court at Palma de Mallorca.
King Juan Carlos of Spain signed the bill of his abdication in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe.
King Juan Carlos, 76, signed the bill at a ceremony in the Royal Palace in Madrid, which was attended by only 160 guests.
At midnight local time, Crown Prince Felipe, 46, will become king although the event will not be marked in public until Thursday morning.
The succession was endorsed by both of Spain’s main political parties.
Before the signing, King Juan Carlos sat with Queen Sofia to his right and Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia to his left as the content of the law was read out.
King Juan Carlos of Spain signed the bill of his abdication in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe
After Juan Carlos had signed the document that will end his rule, PM Mariano Rajoy also signed the law. Moments later, the assembled guests applauded, the prince’s two daughters joined the royal group and the national anthem was played.
Prince Felipe will head to the lower house of the Spanish parliament on Thursday for the first royal transition the country has seen since democracy was restored after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.
The ceremony at 10:30 local time will take the form of a proclamation rather than a coronation, in part because of the economic hardship that many Spaniards have experienced in recent years.
Juan Carlos, who has been king for 39 years, formally brought his reign to an end in the Hall of Columns at the 18th Century royal palace, the same room in which Gen. Francisco Franco’s body lay in state in November 1975.
Father and son both wore suits which bore the insignia of the order of the golden fleece, Spanish media reported.
King Juan Carlos announced his decision to abdicate on June 2, saying that a “new generation must be at the forefront… younger people with new energies”.
Although he was for many years a popular monarch, King Juan Carlos reputation has taken a knock from a corruption investigation into the business dealings his daughter’s husband and an lavish elephant hunting trip he took to Botswana in April 2012 in the midst of Spain’s financial crisis,
As Juan Carlos was Spain’s first ruling monarch for 44 years, a new law of abdication had to be passed by both houses of parliament under the country’s 1978 constitution.
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The Spanish parliament has backed the abdication of King Juan Carlos and accession of his son Crown Prince Felipe by a large majority.
The succession had the backing of both the ruling centre-right Popular Party and the opposition Socialist party despite some Socialist misgivings.
Radical leftists in the chamber had demanded a referendum.
Madrid and other cities have seen anti-monarchy rallies since King Juan Carlos, 76, announced on June 2 he would step down.
King Juan Carlos said he was abdicating after nearly 40 years on the throne to make way for a “new generation”.
The government says parliament has to approve the transition as it requires a change in the 1978 constitution.
Referendum campaigners reacted furiously to the vote on Twitter, with the topic “We want to vote” quickly trending.
Spain’s crown prince is expected to be proclaimed King Felipe VI on June 19 (photo AFP)
The bill was passed in Congress by 299 votes in favor to 19 against, and 23 abstentions.
It will now have to be approved by the upper house of parliament, the Senate, which is expected to vote on June 17. The prince is expected to be proclaimed King Felipe VI on June 19.
Opening the debate on Wednesday, PM Mariano Rajoy defended “the continuity of the institutions”, saying the “form of the state ” was not up for discussion.
“We are not here to modify facts but to underline with our bill that in Spain we rely on a resolutely democratic parliamentary monarchy,” he said.
Opinion polls published at the weekend give a mixed picture of sentiment among Spaniards.
A poll for the centre-left daily El Pais suggested 62% of people wanted a referendum, while 49% would favor the continuation of the monarchy under Felipe, compared with 36% who would back a republic.
Another poll, for the centre-right El Mundo, suggested 55.7% backed the monarchy and 72.9% thought Felipe would make a good king.
Felipe will inherit the throne at a time when Spain is struggling with high unemployment and growing demands for independence for Catalonia.
For much of King Juan Carlos’s reign, he was seen as one of the world’s most popular monarchs, but recently many Spaniards lost confidence in him.
In part, a long-running corruption investigation into the business dealings of King Juan Carlos’ daughter, Infanta Cristina, and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, tarnished the monarchy’s reputation.
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Spain’s cabinet will discuss today the next steps in the process of King Juan Carlos’s abdication and the accession of his son, Crown Prince Felipe.
King Juan Carlos announced on Monday his intention to abdicate after nearly 40 years on the throne.
Ministers will discuss the steps needed to approve Crown Prince Felipe’s accession to the throne.
King Juan Carlos was seen as popular for much of his reign, but recently many Spaniards have lost confidence in him.
PM Mariano Rajoy said the cabinet meeting would aim at carrying out the “constitutional measures” needed to clear the way for the succession.
King Juan Carlos announced on Monday his intention to abdicate after nearly 40 years on the throne (photo Spain’s Royal Palace)
The Spanish constitution does not have a precise law regulating abdication and royal succession, and ministers will discuss the special legislation that will be necessary for the process.
The two main parties in parliament remain loyal to the monarchy.
Prince Felipe will become King Felipe VI and will inherit an institution whose reputation has been tarnished by scandals in recent years.
King Juan Carlos, 76, said his son Prince Felipe would “open a new era of hope”
The king announced his decision on Monday in a televised address.
“A new generation must be at the forefront… younger people with new energies,” he said.
Prince Felipe will have to contend with the damage done to the standing of the monarchy by a long-running corruption investigation into the business dealings of his sister and her husband.
Support fell further when it was discovered King Juan Carlos had been on a lavish elephant hunting trip to Botswana in April 2012, in the middle of Spain’s financial crisis.
On Monday evening, thousands of protesters took to the squares of several Spanish towns and cities demanding a referendum on whether the monarchy should continue.
Juan Carlos took the throne in 1975, after the death of General Francisco Franco, the military dictator who had ruled for 36 years.
He became Spain’s first crowned head of state for 44 years.
But he soon ignored Franco’s supporters, who wanted an extension to autocratic rule, and ushered in a new system of parliamentary monarchy.
In later years King Juan Carlos became more of a figurehead.
He has been credited as a stabilizing force for independence-minded areas such as Catalonia and the Basque region.
Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia – a former television presenter – have recently taken on more important roles in ceremonial events.
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King Juan Carlos of Spain has announced his abdication after almost 40 years of ruling.
Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy has announced the abdication in the morning but did not mention the reasons behind it in his speech.
A government source, however, has said King Juan Carlos was stepping down for “personal reasons”.
King Juan Carlos of Spain has announced his abdication after almost 40 years of ruling
The king had been on the throne for almost 40 years. He took over after fascism in Spain came to an end with the death of General Franco in November 1975.
King Juan Carlos’ son Prince Felipe – who is 45 – will succeed him.
In his televised address, King Juan Carlos said his abdication was motivated by “a drive for renewal, to overcome and correct mistakes and open the way to a decidedly better future”.
King Juan Carlos said he made the decision to abdicate in January, when he turned 76.
Juan Carlos expressed gratitude to the Spanish people, and said the country had enjoyed a long period of peace, stability and progress.
The king said he made his decision “with great emotion”.
At the end of the relatively short speech, King Juan Carlos thanked his wife, Queen Sofia.
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Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy has announced the abdication of King Juan Carlos.
King Juan Carlos of Spain, who is 76, has ruled since 1975, taking over after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.
The king’s son, Crown Prince Felipe, 45, will take over the throne.
King Juan Carlos of Spain has ruled since 1975, taking over after the death of dictator Francisco Franco (photo Reuters)
For much of his reign, King Juan Carlos was seen as one of the world’s most popular monarchs, but recently many Spaniards have lost confidence in him.
His reputation has been tarnished by a long-running corruption investigation into his daughter and her husband.
Support for the king fell further when it was discovered he had been on a lavish elephant hunting trip to Botswana in the middle of Spain’s financial crisis.
Mariano Rajoy said the king was stepping down for personal reasons. His health is failing and he has had a number of hip operations in recent years.
The prime minister said King Juan Carlos had been a “tireless defender of our interests”.
“I’m convinced this is the best moment for change,” he added.
Mariano Rajoy said ministers would hold a special meeting on the issue.
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