27th May 2024
Former King Juan Carlos I of Spain
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Swiss prosecutors close corruption probe against Spain’s former king Juan Carlos

Prosecutors in Switzerland on Monday said they had closed an investigation into claims that Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos I, received some 89 million euros in kickbacks during negotiations for a rail contract in Saudi Arabia.

The Geneva Attorney General’s office said transfers into a Swiss account had ‘not been sufficiently documented’ but that its three-year investigation had not been able ‘in a sufficient manner’ to link the amounts to the rail contract.

Juan Carlos, a key figure in Spain’s transition to democracy following the death of dictator Franco in 1975, remains the target of several probes in Spain over his financial dealings.

A Spanish consortium was awarded the lucrative contract in 2011 to build the high-speed rail link between Medina and Mecca.

Swiss prosecutors began the investigation in 2018 after media reports suggested Juan Carlos had pocketed illegal commissions in connection with the deal.

The suspicions centred on 89 million euros that Saudi Arabia’s late king Abdullah deposited in 2008 into a Swiss bank account to which 83-year-old former monarch had access.

The Geneva prosecutors said their investigation had established that the money had been deposited into an account with Geneva bank Mirabaud & Cie belonging to the Lucum foundation, for which Juan Carlos held the economic rights.

It had also uncovered other transfers, totalling nearly $9 million, sent from Kuwait and Bahrain to Juan Carlos or to his former mistress, German-Danish businesswoman Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein – also known as Corinna Larsen. She has since accused the disgraced former monarch of spying on her and harassing her, a London court was told during a preliminary hearing last week. ALSO READ: Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos I, claims immunity from English courts.

The Swiss investigation determined that there was evidence the ex-king transferred the bulk of the money in the Lucum account — around $65 million — to an account in the Bahamas in 2012 belonging to a company held by zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

The prosecutors said the complexity of the transactions ‘showed a will to dissimulate’, but that there was not enough evidence to proceed.

Former King Juan Carlos I of Spain
Former King Juan Carlos I of Spain (Jaime Reina / AFP)

Juan Carlos and others accused in the case were however ordered to cover the procedural costs of 200,000 Swiss francs.

The Mirabaud bank was also hit with a 50,000-franc fine for failing to alert Switzerland’s Money Laundering Reporting Office to transactions since July 2018 about zu Sayn-Wittgenstein’s personal account.

While the Swiss case has been shut, the ex-king still faces several investigations in Spain, including one into the Saudi Arabia deal, another into money-laundering allegations surrounding his credit-card use, and a third involving a trust fund.

Spanish prosecutors decided earlier this month to push on with their investigations for another six months.

The probes have particularly focused on whether there were any illegal dealings after the former king abdicated in 2004 and lost his immunity.

While he has not been charged with any crime, the probes have tainted his reputation and that of the Spanish monarchy.

On 2 August 2020, news broke that Juan Carlos had ‘fled Spain’ following on-going investigations concerning corruption scandals. Although his whereabouts were initially unknown, Spain’s royal household released a copy of his communication to his son and current king, Felipe VI, explaining that he was moving abroad to prevent the ‘repercussion of his personal affairs’ from undermining his son’s reign and damaging the monarchy. Two weeks later it was confirmed by the royal household that the former king had been in the United Arab Emirates since 3 August. He has remained there since.

Click here for all our reports on the Spanish Monarchy

ALSO READ: A year since Juan Carlos I left Spain, scandals and legal troubles remain

ALSO READ: Disgraced former king Juan Carlos I sued for harassment by ex-lover

ALSO READ: Former Spanish king’s ex-lover ‘terrified’ by threats from spy chief

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