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article imagePolice detain head of group that brought Spain's princess to trial

By AFP     Apr 15, 2016 in World

Spanish police on Friday detained the head of a trade union that brought the high-profile tax evasion case against Princess Cristina for alleged extortion and other charges.

Miguel Bernad was held as part of an operation against his "Manos Limpias" -- or "Clean Hands" -- group and Ausbanc, an association that defends banking consumers whose president was also detained, police said in a statement.

"They demanded large sums of money in exchange for dropping charges against companies, institutions and people," they claimed.

Police also detained another nine members of both organisations.

Both groups are being investigated for fraud, extortion and being part of a criminal organisation, said a judicial source who wished to remain anonymous.

"Manos Limpias" -- known as a far-right organisation -- has risen to prominence for its involvement in notorious cases in Spain, the most famous being that of Princess Cristina who is on trial for tax evasion in a corruption scandal centred on her husband's business dealings.

The case caused an uproar in Spain when it came to light, sullying the reputation of the monarchy and becoming a symbol of perceived corruption among Spain's elites.

It was also part of the reason behind King Juan Carlos's abdication in June 2014.

A lawyer for Princess Cristina claimed Friday that "Manos Limpias" -- the only entity to maintain a criminal complaint against the royal as public prosecutors have refused to press charges -- had asked for money to drop the accusations.

"Obviously the princess's defence team flatly refused," Pau Molins told a television channel in the northeastern Catalonia region.

"It was an absolutely exorbitant amount of money... We told judicial authorities as we felt this was absolutely unacceptable blackmail."

"Manos Limpias" was not immediately available for comment.

But Virginia Lopez, the lawyer representing the group in the case of Princess Cristina, told reporters she had never authorised or engaged in any such money tractions.

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