Royal-corruption probes are like buses. You wait 45 years for one, and then three come along at once. It’s not clear whether former king Juan Carlos I of Spain has ever actually used public transport—he prefers private jets (especially those bankrolled by hapless relatives) and off-roaders fitted with elephant guns. But it’s almost certain that, right now, cooped away in his Abu Dhabi foxhole, the exiled monarch is cursing the name Dolores Delgado.
Delgado is the fearsome Spanish attorney general who recently declared a third investigation into the disgraced king’s supposed financial philandering. (Juan Carlos, you’ll remember, has Prince Andrew’s eye for a dodgy pal and an apparent “illness” for money.) Working with Alejandro Luzón, the senior anti-corruption prosecutor in the country, Delgado announced the latest probe after new “financial information” arose, but didn’t furnish details. She doesn’t really need to. If Juan Carlos’s past indiscretions are anything to go by, you can chuck the terms “offshore account,” “eccentric foreign potentate,” “hefty backhander,” and “blonde mistress” into a hat and you’ll probably get close to the truth.
The first Supreme Court investigation, which kicked off in June, centered on a potential illegal kickback from an $8.9 billion high-speed rail project in Saudi Arabia in 2011. That chapter starred femme fatale Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein—a German-born businesswoman and former mistress of Juan Carlos’s who received a healthy and “irrevocable” gift from his offshore account. It also featured a briefcase bulging with cash, a rogue former police officer with a penchant for hidden microphones, a $6 million private-jet bill, a broken hip, two Swiss chalets, and a dead elephant. (See Air Mail passim.)
You can chuck the terms “offshore account,” “eccentric foreign potentate,” “hefty backhander,” and “blonde mistress” into a hat and you’ll probably get close to the truth.
The second probe, which broke earlier this month, focuses on money that Juan Carlos apparently received from a Mexican millionaire in order to maintain his gaudy lifestyle and satisfy his various appetites. It appears that Juan Carlos was running up monumental expenses under the steam of an old friend, the financier Allen Sanginés-Krause, without deigning to declare them. The Supreme Court inquiry hopes to discover whether or not the king had squirmed his way out of more than $140,000 a year in taxes using this loophole. Prosecutors have been in touch with one Nicolás Murga Mendoza (a close aide to Juan Carlos) in connection with bank accounts under his name that received large sums from Sanginés-Krause. The former king, it’s alleged, would then spend these funds as he wished (most likely on straightforward shooting weekends and a bigger briefcase). Sofía, Juan Carlos’s wife and the former queen of Spain, is also alleged to have dipped into the funds to pay for jaunts to London.
Sanginés-Krause is an interesting character in his own right. A Goldman Sachs lifer who was instrumental in the firm’s operations in Mexico, Russia, and Latin America, he is the latter-day laird of Killua Castle, in County Westmeath, Ireland—a turreted, crenellated, gray-stoned former ruin—which he bought in 2006. Juan Carlos has visited the castle several times and was photographed there with a former mistress in 2017. Vanity Fair España quotes a source describing Sanginés-Krause as “a slightly eccentric and very sybaritic man,” who collects art and antiques (and now kings, apparently). The Spanish Web site Niusdiario said that Spanish prosecutors were working out whether there “was some trade-off” in the bankrolling of Juan Carlos’s lifestyle or “whether their close friendship could have been a sufficient motive for a donation.” Sanginés-Krause says he has “occasionally provided modest assistance to him in the past and was proud to do so.” He adds that the money he gave Juan Carlos “came from my own funds” and that “there has never been the slightest suggestion of impropriety and I will not allow my good name to be traduced.”
Now, as part of the third investigation, Delgado has widened her net to Jersey, the Channel Island tax haven. It seems that an attempt was recently made to extract funds from an active account in the jurisdiction, sounding the alarm in Spain’s anti-money-laundering authority. This led to Spanish prosecutors digging into the account, which has an apparent balance of almost $12 million, to assess a possible link with the exiled king. Juan Carlos is alleged to have opened a trust in the Channel Islands back in the 1990s. (Juan Carlos has not responded to an e-mail request for comment.)
The hounds are closing in. The former king’s critics worry that he will dodge the worst of the charges: Spain’s constitution means that Juan Carlos cannot be tried for acts committed during his reign, which lasted from 1975 until 2014. He has friends in high places, they point out, and holds royal immunity. Unfortunately for the former king, you can’t be immune from yourself.
Joseph Bullmore is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL