The former lover of Spain’s emeritus king Juan Carlos, businesswoman Corinna Larsen, created a complex web of at least 12 companies and opaque trusts in tax havens located thousands of kilometers from her residence in Monaco. The objective of this convoluted financial structure, which was designed by her Swiss attorneys Maurice Turrettini and Dante Canónica and was in place during her relationship with the former monarch, was to conceal more than €70 million worth of accounts and properties.
The long list of shell companies on which Larsen’s name appears, and those of her two children, have come to light thanks to an investigation by Swiss public prosecutor Yves Bertossa, who named her as an official suspect in 2018 on allegations of money laundering. EL PAÍS has had access to the investigations carried out by the chief prosecutor in Geneva, which include the arrangements made by Larsen to hide the multi-million assets that she obtained while involved with the then-head of the Spanish state.
Who is Corinna Larsen?
The relationship between Corinna Larsen and Spain’s then-king 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.
Juan Carlos I was investigated by the Spanish Supreme Court public prosecutor in connection with alleged kickback payments stemming from the construction of an AVE high-speed rail link from Medina to Mecca, and for other alleged offenses including bribery, perverting the course of justice, influence peddling and tax evasion. But in October prosecutors announced they were planning to shelve these probes.
From Switzerland to Nassau: the €64.8 million “donation.” Larsen used a shell company called Solare to receive the €64.8 million that Juan Carlos I transferred to her “irrevocably” in June 2012. The funds were sent to Nassau, in the Bahamas, from an account belonging to the Panamanian foundation Lucum at the Mirabaud & Cie bank in Geneva. The money was deposited in an account under the name of Solare at the bank Gonet & Cie.
In a statement made to Bertossa, and which was reported on by this newspaper, Larsen stated that she and Canónica “decided to open an account in Gonet Bahamas. The decision was taken because I usually visit the Bahamas and I appreciate this place. Being a resident of Monaco I could open an account wherever I wanted with no fiscal consequences. I believe it is preferable not to put all assets in the same place.” The banker, Gonet, has stated that it was Larsen who requested that the account be opened in the Bahamas, while the businesswoman claims it was him.
A €14 million mansion in the countryside in the name of Jade Trust, a Panamanian foundation. In 2015, three years after receiving the €64.8 million from Juan Carlos I, Larson purchased Chyknell Hall Estate, an 81-hectare property with 11 rooms, a library and a cricket pitch in Bridgnorth, located in the English county of Shropshire. The mansion is in the name of Jade Trust, a Panamanian foundation whose beneficiary is Alexander, the son of the consultant, and who was then aged 13.
“I acquired this mansion via a trust whose beneficiary was my son,” Larsen told the Swiss prosecutor. “I opted for a structure like this one because I calculated that my son, once he was of legal age, would not have the sufficient maturity to administer this asset.”
Foundations allow for the identity of the beneficiaries of the funds that they administer to be hidden. The purchase of this house was executed via a loan from Solare, Larsen’s company that received the “donation” from Juan Carlos I, one that benefitted Honeybird Corporation, another Panamanian company belonging to Larsen.
Chyknell Hall Estate, which was built in 1814, cost €6 million, and Larsen invested another €7 million on refurbishments.
Mountain Lion Inc., a company used to register land gifted by the king of Morocco. The former lover of the emeritus king created this firm so that she could put land in Marrakech in its name. This territory was, she claimed, a gift from the king of Morocco, Mohamed VI. As on other occasions, the creator of the offshore structure was the Swiss lawyer Dante Canónica, the director of the Panamanian foundation behind which the fortune of Juan Carlos I was hidden in Geneva. Canónica has also been named as a suspect of money-laundering offenses.
“It’s a gift from the king of Morocco,” Larsen told the public prosecutor. “It was a gift for me, not in favor of Juan Carlos I. I visited the king of Morocco to thank him for his gift. He hoped I would build a house on the land… And he decided to offer me that land so that I would invest there,” Larsen told the prosecutor. In 2015, however, she offered a contradictory version of events to the controversial former police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo.
Siam Partners S. A., a company used to buy two apartments in a Swiss ski resort by Larsen and Juan Carlos I. To acquire two apartments in Villars-sur-Ollon that cost around four million Swiss francs (€3.7 million), Larsen created the firm Siam Partners S. A. In 2009, this company received “loans” from Juan Carlos I, via his Panamanian foundation Lucum, for 2,199,000 Swiss francs (€2.1 million), which the consultant claimed to have returned “with interest.”
Larsen explained the transactions to the Swiss prosecutor: “I created this company to receive a loan from Juan Carlos I that was destined for the purchase of two homes in Villars. I already had an apartment there. At that time, in 2009, my son was studying at the Aiglon College boarding school. The apartment had three rooms. It was perfect for my mother, my son and I. At that time, Juan Carlos I went to Villars a lot. The apartment was very small to receive him. We decided to buy two apartments in the same building. I financed roughly 50% of it myself. The other half was provided by Juan Carlos I via loans from the company Siam Partners S. A.”
The consultant said that she did not have any information about Calden, another shell company created by Canónica, who signed the contracts for the supposed loans.
Shortly after the repayment, in December 2010, Larsen received $5 million (€4.3 million) in her Swiss bank account at Mirabaud & Cie, from the Kuwaiti government. The payment took place after the then-king of Spain made a visit to the country. Larsen attributed this payment to her work as a consultant. Luc Theenoz, representative for the bank, says that the deposit was justified “with a letter more than a contract.”
Larsen’s €10 million house in London, in the name of a company in the British Virgin Islands. On this occasion, the architects of Larsen’s opaque structure chose this tax haven, located in the Caribbean. They created a company called Riverhouse Partner, under the guidance of the Genevan attorney Turrettini and with Larsen as the owner. The purpose of the firm was to open an account in Mirabaud & Cie. It was used to purchase the house in Eaton Square where the consultant lives.
The property cost £5 million (€5.8 million), while a further £4 million (€4.6 million) were spent on refurbishments. Once again, Juan Carlos I was involved in the purchase. “It’s true that Juan Carlos I participated in the financing for the acquisition of this house in excess of £1.5 million [€1.7 million]. It was a donation on his part in my favor,” Larsen told Bertossa. The funds used for the purchase came from Gulf Development, another of Larsen’s companies that was located in the Cayman Islands, another tax haven.
A company in the Seychelles with the Mexican businessman Allen Sanginés-Krause, a friend of the emeritus king. In this tax haven – which has just been taken off the European Union’s blacklist – Larsen and Allen Sanginés-Kraus created Fortuna Ventures Ltd., in 2008. The consultant did so via her company Apollonia Holdings, and Juan Carlos’s friend used his company Montpascal Holdings. The Supreme Court is investigating the emeritus king for the use of credit cards that were supplied to him by this businessman.
A year later, Larsen created Apollonia Holdings GMBH in the Seychelles. She did so via the Panamanian law firm Alcogal, which has created companies for thousands of people seeking to avoid tax all over the world. Since 2004, the former lover of Juan Carlos has been working as a mediator in international businesses via another of her companies, Apollonia Associates, with an office in Monaco.
A trust in New Zealand to receive money from the Spanish Saudi Investment Fund. In 2007, Larsen made plans so that the managers in New Zealand of a trust in her name, and called Peregrine, would hand over to Juan Carlos I “30% of the income from the Spanish Saudi Investment Fund” in the case of her death. This fund had been sponsored by Juan Carlos and Larsen had worked for it. Larsen’s lawyer claims that the documents showing this plan are fake.
Another firm called Peregrine 55, a subsidiary of Peregrine, is also linked to the consultant. The Panamanian law firm Alcogal is connected to the two.