Swiss drop case linked to Saudi funds for ex-Spanish king
Geneva prosecutors have fined a Swiss bank for failing to alert money laundering authorities about a portion of more than $100 million from Saudi Arabia that went to former Spanish King Juan Carlos and his ex-lover, but dropped possible charges against his associates in the case.
The Geneva prosecutor’s office, in a statement Monday, said it partially dropped an investigation opened three years ago of five people for alleged money laundering, while deciding that the Mirabaud bank had failed to properly communicate with the Swiss money laundering office.
The Swiss investigation was prompted after reports in Spanish media about possible illegal payouts benefiting the king in the awarding of public contracts to Spanish companies — funds that could have been hidden in Swiss banks. Some of those payouts were suspected to be linked to commissions on a high-speed rail project from Medina to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Juan Carlos, 83, was not among the five being investigated in this probe.
Investigators did find that Juan Carlos received on Aug. 1, 2008 — before he stepped down as king — through a foundation known as Lucum, the sum of $100 million from the Saudi finance ministry, the prosecutor’s office said. It also turned up millions more received by the king or his former lover Corinna Larsen, a Danish-German businesswoman.
“My innocence was evident at the outset and this episode has served to harm me further as part of the ongoing abuse campaign against me by certain Spanish interests,” said Larsen, who identifies herself as Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. “The principal wrongdoers, meanwhile, have not been investigated and have been given time to conceal their activities. They remain unaccountable.”
The prosecutor’s office said use of a foundation to take in the funds “demonstrated a desire” to hide those funds, but “the investigation could nevertheless not establish sufficiently any link between the amount received from Saudi Arabia and the conclusion of contracts for the construction of the high-speed train.”
It ordered Mirabaud to pay a fine plus legal fees totaling 200,000 Swiss francs ($217,000) for its failure to alert the money-laundering office about Larsen’s personal account.
In a statement, the bank said the decision was “tantamount to an outright acquittal, confirming that no money laundering offense has been committed by the bank” and “puts an end to the unfounded accusations made against it.”
Mirabaud said it “takes note” of the administrative fine, saying it was linked to an “alleged breach of a duty” to report to the Swiss money laundering office about a single transaction which took place nine years ago and was unrelated to Juan Carlos.
Prosecutors at Spain’s Supreme Court are still probing the alleged kickbacks in the Saudi high-speed train contract, the former king’s alleged funds in tax heavens and possible fraud to tax authorities.
Juan Carlos has reportedly been living in the United Arab Emirates since mid-2020, when the allegations of financial scandals swirled around him and embarrassed the royal household.
His son, Felipe VI, rose to the Spanish throne after Juan Carlos’ abdication in 2014, and has since then distanced himself from his father.
Spanish media say the payment was made in the hope of ending that investigation before he comes home, but prosecutors say the probe continues.
Juan Carlos is ranked No. 9 in the world’s richest royals by CEOWorld Magazine. Felipe VI has removed him from the palace payroll.
Associated Press writer Aritz Parra contributed to this report from Madrid.