Spanish judge asks Swiss prosecutor for information on alleged donation to friend of former King Juan Carlos

Documents discovered in Geneva related to a multi-million transfer received by Corinna Larsen could see a legal probe reopened in Spain

Corinna Larsen in New York in 2016.
Corinna Larsen in New York in 2016.

A High Court judge in Spain has requested new information from a public prosecutor in Switzerland over an investigation the latter is carrying out into a donation received by Corinna Larsen, a friend of Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos I. Swiss state attorney Yves Bertossa is probing an alleged money-laundering offense involving Larsen, in relation to the possible payment of illegal commissions connected to a Spanish project to build a high-speed AVE train link in Saudi Arabia.

Manuel García Castellón, the Spanish High Court judge in question, had previously opened a case into recordings of Corinna Larsen, in which she is heard stating that the emeritus king – who abdicated from the Spanish throne in 2014 – held undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland. That case was shelved in 2018 due to a lack of evidence.

King Juan Carlos in January.
King Juan Carlos in January. Carlos R. Alvarez / WireImage

The Swiss prosecutor, meanwhile, has discovered an alleged multi-million-euro donation made to Larsen in 2012 from a Swiss bank account, as EL PAÍS revealed earlier this week. Larsen claims that the funds were a donation made by Juan Carlos to her and her son.

Judicial sources have told EL PAÍS that the information that the Spanish judge is waiting for could see the shelved probe reopened.

The relationship between Corinna Larsen and Spain’s king emeritus came into the public spotlight as a result of the 2012 accident that Juan Carlos suffered in Botswana, where they were both on a hunting safari. The incident damaged the monarch’s reputation and was partially behind his surprise decision to abdicate in 2014.

Larsen, a Monaco-based businesswoman, who continues to use her German ex-husband’s aristocratic title, zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, made headlines in 2018 when recordings emerged in which she claimed she had been used as a front to conceal some of Juan Carlos’ wealth.

The recording was one of many made by a former police commissioner named José Manuel Villarejo, who is at the heart of a series of judicial investigations into 20 years’ worth of wiretaps and other invasions of privacy against scores of politicians, business people, judges and journalists in Spain. Villarejo is currently in prison awaiting trial.

The Spanish prosecutor’s request for information comes after its corruption branch began investigating alleged irregularities relating to the Mecca high-speed rail project

Judge García Castellón has requested the documents that detail the discoveries made by the Swiss prosecutor, and which were communicated to the Spanish High Court in July last year. Bertossa informed the judge of documents located during searches of the offices of fund manager Arturo Fasana and the lawyer Dante Canonica. These included an account at the private Genevan bank Mirabaud from which around €65 million was transferred in 2012 from an account in the Bahamas – which is a tax haven – to an account belonging to Larsen.

The Mirabaud account, which was managed by Fasana, was in the name of a now-defunct Panamanian foundation called Lucum, and received an alleged donation of $100 million transferred by the Finance Ministry in Saudi Arabia. At that time, the Saudi king was Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who died in 2015.

The Spanish prosecutor’s request for information comes after its corruption branch began investigating alleged irregularities relating to the Mecca high-speed rail project. Spanish prosecutor Luis Pastor took a statement in London from Larsen, who denied having anything to do with the AVE contracts and stated that she had only had knowledge of alleged commissions “through third parties.”

As part of the same investigation, prosecutors have interviewed the Iranian intermediary Shapari Azam Zanganeh, the third wife of Saudi magnate Adnan Khashoggi, who died in 2017. For many years the couple were regulars in jet-set circles in Marbella, in southern Spain.

On October 29, Bertossa traveled to Madrid and met with García Castellón as well as public prosecutors Luis Pastor, Alejandro Lujón, Miguel Serrano and Ignacio Stampa. The latter two attorneys were investigating the recordings of Larsen speaking about the king’s business affairs, until the case was shelved by a judge due to lack of evidence and the fact that the king enjoyed immunity while he was monarch.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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