May 23, 2024

Open Court


Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in major trouble

Too often, the life of a highly successful tennis player seems to run into potholes after retirement happens, and real life kicks in.

That seems true even more for the female players than the men.

But former No. 1 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario’s troubles at the moment are at a defcon level.

The biggest issue the 46-year-old Spaniard is dealing with at the moment is that the Banque de Luxembourg has filed a criminal complaint with a Barcelona court. The bank wants the court to put both Sanchez Vicario and her estranged husband Josep Santacana into pre-trial detention.

Her lawyer has reportedly received a court order that gives her five days to respond to the allegations.

Why? A $5.2 million Euro debt that dates back to Sanchez Vicario’s tax-evasion issues years ago has ballooned to 7.5 million Euros. 

The bank expects the couple to return to Spain to face charges related to another situation. And it wants the Spanish courts to take them into pre-trial detention at that time, or pay a bond of 10 million euros.

According to La Vanguardia, the bank had already filed a complaint against them nearly three years ago for property and credit fraud. And while it was successful, the bank has yet to see a penny of the judgment.

Tax-evasion issues

The gist of the tax evasion situation was that Sanchez Vicario claimed, during her peak earning years on the WTA Tour, that she was a resident of the tax haven of Andorra.

It was appealed all the way to the Spanish Supreme Court, which upheld the original ruling. And the original fine of 3.5 million euros grew to 5.2 million euros with interest by 2009.

The debt was guaranteed by the Spanish Banco de Sabadell. The Bank of Luxembourg, where Sanchez Vicario held her assets when she was managed by IMG, signed a counter-guarantee. 

The bank then tried to get the money from the Spaniard. It has been trying for nearly eight years, as Sanchez Vicario pleaded ignorance about her assets and kept asking for extensions. 

Chasing the money trail

The Luxembourg bank, according to La Vanguardia, sued Sanchez Vicario and her husband in civil court in March, 2011 and won the case 2 1/2 years later. They did not appeal. But the bank could not get a list of assets from the couple, which could be seized and sold to pay off the debt. The bank then filed a criminal complaint in 2015.

Sanchez Vicario had always blamed the family patriarch, Emilio, for absconding with much of her fortune.

But a year after she married Santacana, she revoked her father’s control over her assets by notarial deed. According to Vanguardia, as late as last November, the couple told the bank that Emilio Sánchez Sr. continued to manage her holdings (which at one time were estimated at around $60 million).

Emilio Sanchez died in Feb. 2016.

Sanchez Vicario tried to shelter her earnings during her peak years by claiming residence in the tax haven of Andorra. The Spanish tax man didn’t buy it.

The bank now claims that Sánchez Vicario and Santacana have committed fraud. It accuses the couple of liquidating assets (including the sale of her parents’ apartment and multiple other properties in Spain) through various shell companies to avoid having to honor the judgment.

The couple relocated to Miami four years ago, to escape the the attention – and the heat.

Spanish soap opera

Strapped for cash, Sanchez Vicario wrote a tell-all book that accused her family members of bilking her multi-million-dollar fortune. She was in tears during the book launch

Before the Nadals, the Sanchez Vicarios were the royal family of tennis in Spain, with three children who all went on to excellent pro careers.

But in later years, their family life was dragged through the tabloids.

Sánchez Vicario’s first husband was journalist Joan Vehils.

That lasted about a year. When she married Santacana in Dec. 2008, there was much behind-the-scenes drama before the actual wedding day.

Her father put a private detective on Santacana, and found he was reportedly hugely in debt – a cad who was only after her money. But in the end, her parents did attend the wedding. And it turned out that Sánchez Vicario was already very pregnant with her first child, daughter Arantxa, now nine. The couple also has a seven-year-old son, Leo.

All in the family

Sanchez Vicario’s first marriage, to journalist Joan Vehils, only lasted a year.

In Sanchez Vicario’s memoir, she accuses her family and trusted advisors of stealing her fortune.

It wasn’t long before the Spaniard started suing her family, in the wake of the tax-evasion debt.

But first, she wrote an explosive tell-all in which she accused her father, mother, brothers Javier and Emilio and two advisors of bilking her of an estimated $60 million. At the press conference to launch the book in 2012, she was in tears.

She claimed she was broke, living on a small monthly allowance while her family blew the rest. 

The case went through the court system between 2012 and 2015. In the end, there was some sort of settlement, which did nothing to heal the family rift.

When Emilio Sanchez died two years ago, Sánchez Vicario and her husband were thrown out of the funeral home.

And… another thing

If things weren’t bad enough, there are other media reports that the couple, who have been living apart in Miami, have officially split and are embroiled in a nasty custody battle in the Florida courts.

Despite his misgivings, father Emilio did attend his daughter’s wedding to Santacana in 2008.


According to El Mundo, Santacana left the Miami penthouse the couple shared and has moved in with another women he’d been seeing for months.

With all this going on, Sanchez Vicario cancelled a planned trip to Melbourne to play in the seniors’ invitation event, something she had done several times in the past.

The El Mundo report says that after all the business with her father, she appointed Santacana to manage her assets.


And that now, he’s taken everything – including the Grand Slam trophies she won during her career.

El Pais writes that she has sued him to get some of her assets back, but he claims he doesn’t have them.

The two were due in court on Wednesday.

Santacana reportedly wouldn’t sign a prenuptial agreement before the wedding. Sánchez Vicario, given her family’s insistence at the time that there needed to be one (concern which, it seems, was well-founded), did the opposite – even if she was by far the wealthier of the two.

La Vanguardia says, in another story, that there are at least four more people who claim to have been scammed by Santacana.

A charmer.

Custody issues, financial woes

All of this is massive fodder for the Spanish media. But at the heart of it is a 46-year-old woman who once was on top of the world. Now, she finds herself watching her entire life fall apart.

 If there is a silver lining at all, it’s that she has looked to her big brother Emilio – with him she was once so close – as a shoulder to lean on, per El Pais.

The two used to pretend the other didn’t even exist, when they crossed paths at tournaments.

Emilio Sanchez has a tennis academy in Naples, Fla., just a two-hour drive across the state. If a reconciliation with her family comes out of all this, there’s at least one positive.

(The sources for all of the information in this piece are contained in the links above. Please click on them to get the full story).

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