The English country mansion at the centre of a scandal involving Spain’s former King Juan Carlos I has been plagued by ‘incidents’ and a break-in since it was bought by his mistress, her lawyers say.
Lawyers for Corinna Larsen, the former mistress of King Juan Carlos I and the owner of the Chyknell Hall Estate in Shropshire, spoke of ‘a number of incidents’ at the property in addition to a mysterious 2017 burglary.
Larsen bought the £6million mansion in 2015, three years after receiving a €65million (£58million) gift from the then-monarch which Swiss investigators suspect was linked to a £76million payment from Saudi Arabia.
Reports say Larsen spent another £6million on renovations, to the surprise of locals who told The Times that ‘it was already such a nice estate’ and ‘it felt like ripping out a perfectly nice kitchen just for the sake of it’.
Larsen denies claims of money laundering and her lawyers say that Chyknell Hall is not in the crosshairs of the Swiss investigation, but the swirling claims have prompted the former King to leave Spain for Abu Dhabi.
Residents near Chyknell Hall said Corinna Larsen – also known as Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein – had been the ‘talk of the hamlet’ since she moved in but ‘does not get involved much in the community’.
One local told the Times that ‘when she moved in there was a lot of work carried out and people wondered why, it was already such a nice estate’.
‘It felt like ripping out a perfectly nice kitchen just for the sake of it,’ they added.
The property’s fences and security systems were beefed up after Larsen moved in, but a burglar allegedly broke in three years ago and lawyers spoke of other ‘incidents’ without explaining further.
Larsen told the Mail on Sunday earlier this year that she suspected she was being harassed by Spanish security services.
The only sign of the 2017 break-in was a disc-shaped piece of glass removed from her first-floor bedroom window, she said, with nothing taken from the home.
‘It shows a high level of competence, not only to execute it, but to know which bedroom was hers,’ said her chief of staff Adam Crookshank.
Larsen, a Danish-born business consultant, has been under investigation for suspected money laundering since 2018 but lawyers say the claims are ‘baseless’.
According to El Pais, she has told Swiss prosecutors she bought the property through a trust fund registered in Panama that listed her son, who was 13 at the time, as its beneficiary.
The purchase of Chyknell Hall is said to have attracted interest in Switzerland because it followed the gift from Juan Carlos and because of the ‘opaque structure’ which she allegedly set up to buy it.
Larsen last week said Juan Carlos had earlier made the ‘enormously generous gift’ out of ‘gratitude for looking after him’ and because he valued her son.
Speaking to BBC News, Larsen – who was the king’s lover from 2004 to 2009 – said that Juan Carlos had asked for the money back in a ‘tantrum’ in 2014.
‘At some point he realised I wasn’t going to return, and he went completely ballistic. He asked for everything back. I think it was just a tantrum he threw,’ she said.
However, she said Juan Carlos had told Swiss investigators that ‘he never actually asked for the money back’.
Larsen is one of three people under investigation over the $100million which Juan Carlos received from late Saudi king Abdullah in a Swiss bank account in 2008.
Both Larsen and Juan Carlos have denied that she held money in the former King’s name.
In a letter dated August 2018 which Juan Carlos sent to his Swiss lawyer Dante Canonica, he said the donation made to Larsen in 2012 ‘was irrevocable’.
‘I never received any amount back from her. I have never asked for it,’ Juan Carlos wrote in French, in the letter published by Spanish media last week.
‘Madame Corinna zu Sayn Wittgenstein has therefore never held money on my behalf, contrary to what may have been suggested in the Spanish media.’
Juan Carlos has been married to his wife Sofia since 1962 and reports of his relationship with Larsen generated a wave of sympathy for the former queen. The queen’s official biographer described Juan Carlos as liking all women except the one he chose as a wife.
Despite his self-imposed exile Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014, has said he remains available to prosecutors.
In June, Spain’s supreme court opened a a preliminary investigation into his involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia.
Justice minister Juan Carlos Campo said the former king would return to Spain to respond to judges if required. ‘I’m convinced that when justice calls him, he will attend,’ Campo said.
Juan Carlos’s whereabouts were the subject of mystery earlier this month until the royal palace confirmed he had been in the United Arab Emirates since August 3.
In a letter to his son Felipe, he said he wanted the current King to reign untroubled ‘amid the public repercussions that certain past events in my private life are generating’.
King Felipe thanked Juan Carlos for his decision, pointing to ‘the historic importance that his father’s reign represents’ for democracy in Spain.
Juan Carlos was crowned in 1975 after being groomed as the successor of Spain’s long-serving dictator Francisco Franco – but to the dismay of Franco loyalists, the King quickly implemented reforms that led to democratic elections in 1977.
After an attempted military coup in 1981, Juan Carlos gave a television broadcast in support of the government and Spain’s young democracy.
However, his popularity waned amid a tax fraud case involving members of the royal family, as well as an ill-advised hunting trip to Botswana.