The legal probe into the Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein leaked tapes is ticking along. On the recordings, the businesswoman and close friend of King Juan Carlos can be heard telling police superintendent José Manuel Villarejo —currently held on remand— that the former King of Spain used her as a figurehead to conceal his assets abroad. On Thursday the retired superintendent was questioned for just over one hour by Justice Diego de Egea in Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional court. This is the same judge who ordered the police officer’s arrest in November last year, in the wake of Operation Tandem.
The retired policeman testified that he had met Corinna “on a State mission” that aimed to resolve the “problems” which the German aristocrat was having with King Juan Carlos at the time. According to an Efe newswire report, citing a court source, Villarejo claimed that he was acting on orders at all times and he never sought to profit himself (which the Audiencia Nacional is investigating); rather, he assured the court that his objective was to solve certain conflicts between the Spanish king and Corinna.
Last week the examining magistrate decided to open up a separate probe as part of the Corinna tapes case and, immediately afterwards, he requested a copy of all the audio material published by media, which implicates both the former king, Juan Carlos, and the CNI, Spain’s intelligence service. Yesterday the head of the CNI, Félix Sanz Roldán, appeared before the Spanish parliament and gave his assurance that the assets and businesses of King Juan Carlos hadn’t been looked into because no government had ever requested it. Podemos found Roldán’s explanations before the official secrets committee unsatisfactory and they continue to demand, together with Catalonia’s separatist parties, a formal parliamentary probe, which the PSOE and the PP have both vetoed.
Specifically, Justice De Egea is investigating whether Villarejo attempted to sell to Corinna secret, sensitive, confidential information that had been sourced illegally. This is —allegedly— the same method he used in Operation Tandem, which landed him in pre-trial detention in November last year. Even though the separate probe is secret, in the aftermath of Operation Tandem Villarejo was accused of receiving large sums in exchange for confidential information obtained thanks to his contacts in law enforcement and other government institutions. In other words, confidential information such as wire tap recordings and tax statements that —in some cases— had been obtained illegally.
Villarejo travelled to Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional in an ambulance after his lawyer had asked the day before that he be allowed to testify via a video feed due to the severe backache that his client has been suffering from. However, Justice De Egea dismissed the motion and the retired superintendent testified for one hour on Operation Tandem and then just over an hour more about the Corinna tapes. Villarejo refused to answer the questions posed to him by the special anti-corruption prosecutor and only replied to the questions asked by his legal counsel and the judge himself.
Villarejo’s statement comes only a few days after superintendent Enrique García Castaño and inspector Antonio Bonilla were arrested for having allegedly sold secret information to the retired superintendent. After being questioned in the Audiencia Nacional, the judge set bail and seized the police officers’ passports. Shortly afterwards, he dropped the investigation into another police superintendent, Carlos Salamanca. At present Villarejo and his former business partner, Rafael Redondo, are the only members of the alleged criminal ring that are still being held on remand.