Spain’s Finance Minister on Tax Error Involving Princess Cristina: ‘Oops’

In 2011, just as America was recovering from its collective swoon over the British royal wedding, another European monarchy was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Iñaki Urdangarin, the duke of Palma and son-in-law of Spain’s constitutional monarch, Juan Carlos I, was accused of using his royal connections to embezzle millions of euros ...

David Ramos/Getty Images
David Ramos/Getty Images
David Ramos/Getty Images

In 2011, just as America was recovering from its collective swoon over the British royal wedding, another European monarchy was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Iñaki Urdangarin, the duke of Palma and son-in-law of Spain's constitutional monarch, Juan Carlos I, was accused of using his royal connections to embezzle millions of euros through a sports charity.

The accusations have been an embarrassment for the once-popular royal family, whose members have responded by distancing themselves from Urdangarin, even going so far as to remove any trace of the duke from their website (a Spanish reporter speaking to NPR in February was quick to point out that Urdangarin was the king's son-in-law). And with the announcement in May that Princess Cristina, Urdangarin's wife and the king's youngest daughter, might also be implicated in the scandal, the situation quickly went from embarrassing to facepalm-worthy. While charges that she served as an accomplice in her husband's case were quickly dropped, an official tax audit report alleged that she had sold €1.43 million of property in the mid-2000s -- an accusation that, all legal issues aside, is a public relations nightmare in a country with 27-percent unemployment.

So, is tax-dodging as much of an issue with Spain's royals as it is with its soccer players? To quote Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend." On Tuesday, the country's College of Land Registrars announced that none of the properties tied to Princess Cristina actually belonged to her, and expressed mystification as to how they were ever attributed to her in the first place. The following day, Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro issued a formal apology to la Infanta. El País reports:

In 2011, just as America was recovering from its collective swoon over the British royal wedding, another European monarchy was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Iñaki Urdangarin, the duke of Palma and son-in-law of Spain’s constitutional monarch, Juan Carlos I, was accused of using his royal connections to embezzle millions of euros through a sports charity.

The accusations have been an embarrassment for the once-popular royal family, whose members have responded by distancing themselves from Urdangarin, even going so far as to remove any trace of the duke from their website (a Spanish reporter speaking to NPR in February was quick to point out that Urdangarin was the king’s son-in-law). And with the announcement in May that Princess Cristina, Urdangarin’s wife and the king’s youngest daughter, might also be implicated in the scandal, the situation quickly went from embarrassing to facepalm-worthy. While charges that she served as an accomplice in her husband’s case were quickly dropped, an official tax audit report alleged that she had sold €1.43 million of property in the mid-2000s — an accusation that, all legal issues aside, is a public relations nightmare in a country with 27-percent unemployment.

So, is tax-dodging as much of an issue with Spain’s royals as it is with its soccer players? To quote Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend." On Tuesday, the country’s College of Land Registrars announced that none of the properties tied to Princess Cristina actually belonged to her, and expressed mystification as to how they were ever attributed to her in the first place. The following day, Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro issued a formal apology to la Infanta. El País reports:

"An error was made when recording the data and from there when they were submitted to the judiciary," said Montoro….

"Technically, I don’t know how it happened. I do not see any cloak and dagger here; these are purely administrative errors. To say these errors do not occur is to be detached from reality."

The problem seems to have involved an incorrectly transcribed national ID number, although we won’t know for sure until tax officials conclude their internal investigation. Earlier this year, a similar ID-card mixup led to Cristina’s sister Elena being falsely accused of driving a tractor without a license.

Spain’s tax agency denies any wrongdoing, but it remains to be seen whether John Boehner will demand jail time for those at fault.

Park MacDougald is an assistant editor at Foreign Affairs.

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