Sean Connery and Marbella, a marriage that ended in divorce

Sean Connery, happiest on a golf course.
Sean Connery, happiest on a golf course. / sur
  • The actor, who died last weekend aged 90, came to the Costa del Sol in the 1970s, left two decades later and ended up accused of involvement in town planning corruption

For more than two decades Marbella was the place Sean Connery loved to be when enjoying breaks between films. He had just finished filming Diamonds Are Forever, the last and weakest 007 film in which he starred - although 12 years later he made a dubious comeback in Never Say Never Again - and those who knew him insisted that what he loved best of all was playing golf.

He found the Marbella of those golden years an ideal refuge and, although he began with long stays at the Marbella Club and Incosol, he ended up buying a villa beside the sea, between Puerto Banús and San Pedro, which he named Malibu.

Connery's honeymoon with Marbella lasted for more than 20 years, during which time he and his wife, Michelline Roquebrune, who he met in Morocco in 1972, were often seen at parties at the Marbella Club, which were usually attended by other Hollywood stars of the time, or dining in the Santiago restaurant, another favourite with celebrities. However, he could be seen even more often on the golf courses of Las Brisas, Aloha and Los Naranjos.

It was actually a photo of him in a golf cart which led to Connery's divorce from Marbella back in 1995, a time when the actor was already complaining about town planning policy when Jesús Gil was mayor. His villa on the beach had begun to be surrounded by apartment blocks which, although luxurious, completely changed the appearance of the area.

There were council elections that year, and, as part of his re-election campaign, Gil's team produced a video showcasing the attractions of the town and the way the mayor was running it. The video included an image of Connery in a golf cart to portray the fact that Marbella attracted very famous names, and it enraged the actor, who demanded that it be withdrawn on the grounds that it contravened his image rights. Gil complied, but for Connery that was the last straw. At that time a British tabloid also printed a story of an alleged extra-marital adventure between the actor and a British woman who was living in Marbella. It is not known what exactly made the couple decide to leave, but they sold Malibu and moved to the Bahamas.

Police search

Sean Connery at a party in Marbella in the 1980s.

Sean Connery at a party in Marbella in the 1980s. / JOSELE

Nearly 15 years were to pass after Malibu was sold, and in its place a luxury complex of 72 apartments, exactly the type that Connery detested, was constructed. This became a scandal which was all over the news, after the police began investigating town planning irregularities and money laundering in which the actor and his wife were claimed to have been involved along with a group of lawyers and former council members including Juan Antonio Roca and Julián Muñoz. The police operation, which began with a search of the office of the lawyer who had handled the actor's affairs in Marbella, was named after one of the most famous James Bond films: Goldfinger.

Connery always refused to collaborate with the investigation and used his influence at the highest level to try to avoid being associated with the case. The judge had to ask for support after receiving a letter in a threatening tone from the then British ambassador in Spain, Giles Paxman, detailing the actor's complaints about the fact that his supposed involvement in the case had been made public.

Ambassador's warning

The diplomat said that "Sir Sean" considered that the mere public revelation of the alleged criminal proceedings not only affected his public image but had also caused him notable, evident and quantifiable financial damage and he therefore reserved the right to take legal action against those responsible.

When the James Bond actor and his wife were called to make a statement their interpreter did not turn up, and it was not until 2014 that Connery actually appeared as a witness. He did so from the Bahamas via a sworn statement in which he denied any responsibility in the operation, denied that he knew Gil, Roca and Julián Muñoz and warned that he would not be subjected in any way to the jurisdiction of the Spanish court, nor recognise the validity of the request for judicial assistance made by the Spanish authorities to those in the Bahamas.

With regard to his alleged association with Jesús Gil, he insisted that "I think I saw him at a public event, and I don't consider that to mean that I knew him. I had no relationship with him. In the 1990s I asked my lawyer, Héctor Díaz-Bastién, to demand that Señor Gil withdraw the video for his political re-election campaign as mayor of Marbella which contained images of me without my consent or authorisation. Gil complied with that request."

With regard to the case under investigation, he said he had withdrawn from the two companies in which he had been a participant and had transferred them to his wife. For that reason, Micheline continued to be suspected of involvement, and the actor was dropped from the case. His final link with Marbella, a judicial one, ended at that moment.