Public prosecutors in Switzerland are currently investigating a $100m bank account that was held by Spain’s former king Juan Carlos I in Geneva, according to a report first published by Swiss newspaper Tribune de Genève.
The money allegedly originates from a ‘donation’ made in 2007 by the Finance Ministry of Saudi Arabia, at the time that Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was the Saudi king. He died in 2015. The account, in the Swiss Mirabaud Bank, was reportedly in the name of the Lucum Foundation, a former Panamanian entity whose sole beneficiary was Juan Carlos I.
From this account, a ‘gift’ payment of 65m euros was later made in 2012 to Juan Carlos’s former mistress, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.
Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Monaco-based businesswoman who continues to use her German ex-husband’s aristocratic title, has since claimed that the funds were a donation made by Juan Carlos to her, as well as to her son.
A High Court judge in Spain, however, has requested new information from the Swiss prosecutor Yves Bertossa, in order to investigate whether the payments made to Sayn-Wittgenstein involve any illegal commissions connected to a Spanish project to build a Mecca high-speed AVE train link in Saudi Arabia.
The relationship between Sayn-Wittgenstein and Spain’s king emeritus came to light as a result of a 2012 accident that Juan Carlos suffered in Botswana, when they were both on a hunting safari. The incident damaged the Spanish monarchy’s reputation and is widely seen as the reason for Juan Carlos’s decision to abdicate in 2014 at the age of 76 in favour of his son Felipe VI. He then retired from public life in June 2019.
Sayn-Wittgenstein was also in the news in 2018 when recordings emerged in which she claimed she had been used as a front to conceal some of Juan Carlos’s wealth.
The recordings were made by former police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, who is at the centre of a number of investigations into wiretaps and other invasions of privacy against scores of politicians, businessmen, judges and journalists in Spain. He is currently in prison awaiting trial.
Manuel García Castellón, the Spanish High Court judge in question, had previously opened a case into the recordings of Sayn-Wittgenstein, but that case was shelved in 2018 due to a lack of evidence. It is now possible that the case could be reopened.
Meanwhile, the left-wing party Podemos on Thursday demanded an investigative commission covering the ‘alleged corrupt activities of the king Juan Carlos’. Podemos is currently the partner of the Socialist Party (PSOE) in a coalition government. The party, which is led by politician Pablo Iglesias, is calling for the probe as a group rather than from the coalition itself.
Attorneys from the Spanish Congress have previously rejected an investigation into the economic activities of Juan Carlos, on the basis that he enjoyed complete immunity while he was head of state.