Former king of Spain Juan Carlos I accused of using ‘lover’ to secure low-tax property deals

The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, used his alleged lover Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein to buy multiple overseas properties due to her tax residence in Monaco, according to claims made by the German aristocrat in a leaked audio recording.

In a 2015 conversation with a former Spanish police officer in London, Princess Corinna alleged that the king’s lawyers put her name on overseas properties without her permission, complaining that she was being drawn into “money laundering”.

The 53-year-old princess, who obtained her title from her second marriage, also claimed that Juan Carlos I held bank accounts in Switzerland in the name of his cousin, Álvaro Orleans de Borbón.

The allegations in the recording, published by the Spanish newspapers El Español and OK Diario, are the latest controversies to spring from the long-reputed relationship between the Monaco-based princess and Juan Carlos I, who has an estimated fortune of up to €2 billion.

The aristocrat, an adviser to Prince Albert of Monaco, was named in the Spanish press as the then king’s lover after she was discovered in his company when he was injured during a secret 2012 elephant hunting trip in Botswana.

The incident is widely seen as the beginning of the fall of Juan Carlos I, who abdicated in 2014 at the age of 76. That same year, his daughter, Princess Cristina, and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin were charged in the Nóos corruption case; she was later cleared, while Urdangarin is currently serving a prison sentence.

The alleged ten-year affair has never been officially confirmed, Princess Corinna describing herself in a 2013 interview with El Mundo as a “close friend” of the monarch.

In the recordings revealed on Wednesday, the aristocrat said she was living a “nightmare” because the king had put various properties in Morocco and elsewhere into her name, which, following the end of their personal relationship, he then wanted transferred to his cousin.

“But if I do it, it is money laundering,” she says in the recording as transcribed by El Español. “They are putting me under tremendous pressure to return these things, but if I do it I am breaking the law and I could go to jail”. 

Princess Corinna claimed the properties had been put in her name not “because he loves me a lot, but because I reside in Monaco”, where such assets did not have to be publicly declared. 

She also alleged that Spain’s intelligence agency was behind a supposed mercenary operation to break into her home and steal documents.

The claims were made during a meeting with José Manuel Villarejo, a former police officer currently in custody while under investigation for alleged money laundering. He maintains he became a victim of official persecution after Spanish intelligence tasked him with retrieving a sensitive document from Princess Corinna, which the agency then believed he had kept for personal gain.

The Spanish palace has not commented on Wednesday’s reports. Álvaro Orleans de Borbón has denied the claims.

Princess Corinna said in a statement: "I have always acted entirely correctly and I continue to live my life with a peaceful outlook, irrespective of years of constant harassment and attempts to publicly discredit me with endless false information."