SPANISH ROYALS

Spain’s former king received alleged €1.7m donation from ruler of Bahrain, Swiss probe shows

Arturo Fasana, the former monarch’s fund manager, tells prosecutors he deposited the money in a bank account for Juan Carlos I

Spain's emeritus king Juan Carlos (left) with the ruler of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, on May 1, 2014.
Spain's emeritus king Juan Carlos (left) with the ruler of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, on May 1, 2014.STR / EFE

In 2010, Spain’s emeritus king Juan Carlos I was in Geneva to hand nearly $1.9 million (€1.7 million) – a gift he had allegedly received from the king of Bahrain – to Arturo Fasana, the manager of his Swiss bank account at the private lender Maribaud, according to the latter’s statements to Geneva’s chief prosecutor Yves Bertossa, to which EL PAÍS has had access.

The Swiss justice system is investigating a Panama-based foundation named Lucum where Spain’s former monarch was named as its first beneficiary.

Bertossa sent a request for judicial cooperation to Judge Manual García Castellón of Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, providing information about a $100 million donation by Saudi Arabia to a Swiss account held by Juan Carlos and explaining that at the time of this deposit, made on April 7, 2010, there was a further deposit made worth $1,895,250 (€1.7 million), which was allegedly a gift from the ruler of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa. The Swiss bank account was held in the name of the Panamanian entity Lucum.

King Felipe VI recently announced he is relinquishing any inheritance from his father, after news emerged that he himself was a beneficiary of Lucum and another foundation named in the investigation.

Juan Carlos showed up at Fasana’s private home with a suitcase allegedly containing the money

Bahrain, a tiny country covering 712 square kilometers with a population of around 1.2 million and per capita GDP that is nearly twice that of Spain, lies between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Juan Carlos visited Bahrain in 2014 together with three Spanish ministers and a delegation of 15 business leaders, as part of a tour of the six nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council. The goal of the trip was to attract investment and contracts for Spain. In April 2016, Juan Carlos attended the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, and met with King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa.

In October 2018 the Swiss prosecutor took statements from the fund manager Arturo Fasana, who was being investigated for alleged money laundering. Fasana was asked about the origin of the money, and the reasons why Juan Carlos received $1.9 million on April 7, 2010 from the ruler of Bahrain. The fund manager replied that Juan Carlos is highly esteemed in the Gulf countries, and that during a return trip from Abu Dhabi, the Spanish monarch stopped by Fasana’s home in Geneva for lunch. “He told me he had received $1.9 million from the sultan of Bahrain, who had offered him this money,” he testified. Fasana said he asked Mirabaud bank if the money could be deposited and received an affirmative answer, after which Juan Carlos showed up at Fasana’s private home with a suitcase allegedly containing the cash.

Bertossa has also questioned one of Mirabaud bank’s top managers regarding the reason behind this donation, and the answer was: “I don’t know the reason.” Javier Sánchez-Junco, the lawyer representing Juan Carlos, has declined to comment.

Arturo Fasana told prosecutors that Juan Carlos is highly esteemed in the Gulf countries

As part of the investigation, several weeks ago prosecutors also took statements from Yves de Mirabaud, who was the lender’s president at the time, and who explained that Fasana had a close relationship with the bank. This meant that the lender’s compliance department accepted the hefty deposits. The bank itself is currently under investigation in addition to Fasana, the lawyer Dante Canónica and Corinna Larsen, a longtime friend of the Spanish king.

Fasana also told prosecutors about the $100 million deposit made on August 8, 2008 to Juan Carlos’ name by the royal house of Saudi Arabia. This money, he said, was a donation, and €65 million from this amount was later transferred to an account held by Corinna Larsen.

Larsen, a Monaco-based businesswoman described as a close friend of Juan Carlos, has told investigators that the money was a donation from the former Spanish monarch. In Spain, High Court Judge Manuel García Castellón and anti-corruption prosecutors are also investigating these alleged payments.

The Swiss prosecutor Bertossa is investigating alleged money laundering in connection with alleged commissions for the contract to build the high-speed rail line to Mecca, which was awarded to Spanish companies. Everyone under investigation has denied receiving commissions.

English version by Susana Urra.

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