FINANCIAL CRIMES

Prosecutors call for four-year jail term for former Spanish tennis star Arantxa Sánchez Vicario

The ex-Roland Garros champion has been accused of fraudulent operations to avoid paying a debt and is also facing €6.1 million in compensation to the Banque de Luxembourg

Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (c) with her parents, Emilio and Marisa, in 2007.
Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (c) with her parents, Emilio and Marisa, in 2007.SUSANNA SÁEZ

Barcelona prosecutors are requesting a four-year prison term for former tennis star Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, and a similar term for her ex-husband Josep Santacana, over allegations of fraudulently transferring assets to avoid paying a large debt.

The former Roland Garros champion, working “under the instructions” of her husband, allegedly moved her assets to avoid paying a debt to the Banque de Luxembourg, which had been claiming an amount running into the millions of euros since 2010. After years of unsuccessfully seeking payment, the bank took the case to court.

Prosecutors also requested that Sánchez Vicario and Santacana pay the lender €6.1 million in compensation.

Santacana, a businessman, is accused of “concocting a plan” involving four financial operations to avoid paying the bank, which had put up the money to cover a fine against Sánchez Vicario in an earlier tax fraud case.

The couple allegedly emptied out their bank accounts, got rid of money they had received from legal proceedings, charged under the table for interviews they granted to the press, and divested themselves of their real estate, including an apartment on Barcelona’s Diagonal Avenue and a home in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, on the Costa Brava.

The accusation underscores that Sánchez Vicario at all times “followed her husband’s instructions.” Several individuals who acted as frontmen have also been charged with cooperating in the asset transfer scheme.

Sánchez Vicario’s financial troubles began years ago, starting with money she owed to the tax authorities. In 2009 the Supreme Court sentenced her to pay a fine of €5,2 million for tax fraud, a sum that was collected by the state after Sabadell Bank backed it. This lender in turn got its money back through a guarantee agreement with the Banque de Luxembourg. For years, part of the tennis champion’s fortune had been kept at this bank, which honored the guarantee deal and began to ask her for regular payments back. The payments were never made, and the debt had ballooned to €7.5 million by 2018, according to the daily La Vanguardia.

The bank took legal action against Sánchez Vicario and Santacana – at that point, the couple were already separating – accusing them of fraudulent transfer of assets. The Spanish justice system ruled in favor of the bank in a civil suit, setting the couple’s debt at €7.5 million. But the money was not paid, and the bank resorted to the criminal courts.

In 2012, the child prodigy of Spanish tennis who first won Roland Garros at the age of 17 and went on to claim 14 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic medals published a memoir where she revealed herself as suffering under manipulative parents who controlled every aspect of her life.

Her career earnings were close to €17 million.

English version by Susana Urra.

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