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The ex-lover of Juan Carlos I has returned to the spotlight, in a supporting role for a different Spanish tale of power and intrigue. Today, Corinna Larsen, former romantic companion of Spain's king emeritus, testified in the trial centred on another controversial figure in the country's shadowy labyrinths of power: former police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, who faces an accusation of slander and making a false complaint against Félix Sanz Roldán, former director of Spain's National Intelligence Centre (CNI).

Corinna Larsen testified in an ordinary court in Madrid, by videoconference from London. The German-Danish businesswoman, also known under her married name of Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, appeared in defence of the ex-police officer: she had felt threatened by the-then head of Spanish intelligence during 2012. "He told me that if I did not follow the recommendations, he could not guarantee my physical integrity and that of my children," said Corinna. "I was terrified by those words; I think anyone would be," she admitted. Not only did Sanz Roldán threaten her, but, she said, it was Juan Carlos I who "was giving the orders".

Today's court appearance is a sequel to Villarejo's Spanish television interview in 2017 with current affairs presenter Jordi Évole, when the former commissioner stated that Sanz Roldán had personally threatened the king's former lover. Fast forward to 2021 and the resulting slander trial has finally been held today, after being postponed four times.

Thus, Corina Larsen ratified Villarejo's version. She did so mentioning several incidents. First, she explained how in the spring of 2012 there was an “illegal occupation” of her offices and apartment in Monaco by a security company hired by the CNI. The ex-lover of Juan Carlos I asked the emeritus to explain what was happening, and he told her in a "vague" way that it was an operation to protect her from paparazzi. This occupation, she testified, "lasted for weeks." They also requested to search her apartment for five days, with no-one present, looking for hidden microphones. She refused because "it didn't make sense". This was one of several "terrifying episodes" she denounced, which led to threats.

“Every time I disagreed with something he asked for, he felt frustrated, and warned me that there could be consequences,” the businesswoman said in reference to the former CNI director. She also explained the meeting she held on May 5th of that year in London with Sanz Roldán. That’s when he told her that if she didn’t follow his recommendations, he couldn’t guarantee her safety. She confirmed that the former director of the CNI told her that the orders came from above: from the then-king Juan Carlos I.

Another episode: the day after that meeting, the businesswoman returned to her family home in Switzerland. She explained that there she found a book about the death of Lady Di. That same morning she received a call from a hidden number. "There are many tunnels between Nice and Monaco," said the voice on the other end, in Spanish.

Corinna Larsen also recounted how, through the anonymous “Paul Bon,” she received threats via email. "It was indeed Mr Roldan. He had sent me a notification telling me that I would receive emails from a person named Paul Bon," she said.

After recounting all these details, Corinna Larsen reiterated that she felt “terrified”. If she didn't take any action to bring the matter to the attention of justice, she explained, it was because she feared that this "hostility" from the Spanish intelligence would go further. She also stated that it would have been useless, due to the immunity enjoyed by both the director of the CNI and king Juan Carlos I.

The Villarejo enigma

This, then, was the first time that former police inspector José Manuel Villarejo had sat in the dock. But it is difficult to imagine that it will be the last. The police officer was arrested in 2017 in the so-called Tandem case and has been in pre-trial imprisonment ever since, charged with criminal organization, bribery and money laundering. 

However, since then the investigation centred on him and his activities has mushroomed. As a police commissioner he appears to have operated as an extra-official free agent and his evidence - in particular, his extensive collection of taped interviews and conversations with many key Spanish public figures - has been crucial in bringing to light illegal political operations such as Operation Catalonia - a campaign to bring down pro-independence politicians - and Operation Kitchen - an illegal espionage mission allegedly ordered by senior PP leaders. Not to mention the corruption allegations focused on the Spanish royal family itself.

Today, the king's ex-lover supported Villarejo's version. The former police commissioner told the court that what she had told him fitted other evidence: "It was not just what Señora Larsen said, but later I was able to confirm it," said Villarejo, mentioning a senior CNI figure who backed the story and how subsequent follow-up emails from Félix Sanz Roldán to the businesswoman also supported it. 

Former police commissioner Villarejo (first) and ex-Spanish intelligence head Sanz Roldán in today's trial

For his part, the Spanish intelligence boss Sanz Roldán denied threatening Corinna at the meeting they held, or sending her emails under the pseudonym Paul Bon. In fact, the former director of the CNI assured that "I never, ever threatened either a woman or a child." He clung to his right to refuse to answer questions regarding the Spanish secret services. Nor did he give any details about his meeting with the German-Danish businesswoman.