Apology to Spain’s Princess Cristina for tax office error
“What happened is simply an error of administrative procedure”
Princess Cristina: speculation about her financial affairs raged in the media and on internet forums. Photograph: Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP
An apparent error by tax authorities has sparked a week of confusion and intrigue in Spain, culminating in Princess Cristina receiving an apology from a senior government minister yesterday.
Last week, the tax office informed an investigating judge that Cristina, King Juan Carlos’s younger daughter, had sold 13 properties worth a total of €1.4 million in 2005 and 2006. The revelation was part of an inquiry by Judge José Castro to decide whether the princess and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, had committed tax fraud.
But Princess Cristina flatly denied the information about the sale of the plots of land, in Alicante, Ciudad Real and Barcelona. The current owners corroborated her version of events, telling the Spanish media they did not buy any of the properties from the princess.
Yesterday finance minister Cristóbal Montoro, whose department oversees the tax office, apologised when he appeared before Congress. “What happened is simply an error of administrative procedure,” he said. “It is regrettable that it should happen and so first of all I must say sorry to the royal family.”
Mr Montoro’s silence about the matter until yesterday had allowed speculation about Princess Cristina’s financial affairs to rage, and fuelled a range of conspiracy theories in the media and on internet forums. The mistake itself was apparently based on repeated mix-ups over the princess’s national identity card number, an error that experts say is possible but highly unusual.
“Technically I don’t know how this has happened,” Mr Montoro admitted, as he tried to scotch the conspiracy theories. “Don’t claim to see ghosts flying around: these are purely one-off, administrative errors. If you say that these kinds of errors don’t happen, then you don’t understand that world.”
He added that the tax office was under enormous pressure due to the volume of work it had and that there would be an investigation into the affair.
The royal family has been battling to save its image recently as the princess’s husband, Mr Urdangarin, is accused of embezzling money from a charity he used to head. He says Cristina had no involvement in his business affairs.
But while the announcement about the princess’s supposed mass property sell-off was unwelcome publicity for the royals last week, the admission that the information was false has undermined the credibility of Spain’s tax authority – and by extension the finance ministry.