Hans Kristian Rausing, the Tetra Pak heir, has been charged with preventing the lawful and decent burial of his wife’s body which lay undiscovered for some weeks.
Eva Rausing’s body was found in the bedroom at the couple’s Chelsea home on 9 July, hours after her husband was stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Police are treating the death of Mrs Rausing as “unexplained” and a post-mortem examination held last week failed to establish a formal cause of death.
Hans Rausing, 49, appeared at West London magistrates court where the prosecution outlined the case against him.
Mr Rausing was stopped by police in South London on suspicion of drug possession and found a crack pipe and other drug paraphenalia in his car. Officers then went to Mr and Mrs Rausing’s 50 room mansion in Chelsea.
The court heard that a strong smell had led the police to the second floor where a secure annexe had been sealed with gaffer tape. Inside they found the room in disarray, the windows open and a pile of bedding and bin bags wrapped in more gaffer tape.
Inside that, several feet deep, was the body of Eva Rausing in an advanced state of decomposition.
Mrs Rausing had last been seen by her financial advisor at the beginning of May.
Mr Rausing was granted conditional bail and will appear in court again on 26 July.
The couple, who have four children, were well known for their philanthropic activities having donated millions over the years to charities, especially those working in the field of drug abuse and rehabilitation.
Hans Rausing is heir to a £5.4bn fortune from his Swedish father’s Tetra Pak business.
An inquest into her death opened at Westminster coroner’s court on Friday.
Paying tribute to his daughter, Mrs Rausing’s father Tom Kemeny said she had interrupted her own drug treatment to help Mr Rausing.
“At the time of her death her overriding concern was for the safety of her beloved husband, for whom she interrupted her own treatment to return to London in an attempt to take him back with her to California, but tragically to no avail,” he said.
Mr Kemeny described his daughter as “a beautiful, generous, and fun daughter, wife, mother, sister and aunt” and described Mr Rausing as his “son”.
He wrote: “Eva and Hans Kristian adored each other and their four beautiful children. When not in London they would have family holidays with their cousins and extended family, without any glitz or glamour.
“Eva and Hans Kristian were a devoted and loving couple for the 21 years they spent together. They benefited thousands of lives through their personal involvement and philanthropic activities.
“They bravely battled their demons and supported each other and Eva will be a devastating loss to our beloved ‘son’ Hans Kristian, whom we love unconditionally with all our hearts.”