UK court clears the way for Spain ex-king’s harassment case

Spain's former king Juan Carlos I does not have state immunity and can be taken to court to face claims from his ex-lover of harassment, a London judge ruled Thursday.

UK court clears the way for Spain ex-king's harassment case
Former king Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain do not live together but have not filed for divorce.(Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

The 84-year-old former head of state’s lawyers had argued at the High Court last December that English courts have no jurisdiction to hear a case brought by Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.

The Danish businesswoman, 58, is seeking civil personal injury damages, alleging she was threatened, had her overseas properties broken into and was spied on after their relationship turned sour.

His lawyers in turn argued that he was immune from the jurisdiction of the English courts, and any allegations had to be brought before Spain’s Supreme Court.

But judge Matthew Nicklin disagreed, stating that “whatever special status the defendant retained under the law and constitution of Spain, he was no longer a ‘sovereign’ or ‘head of state’ so as to entitle him to personal immunity”.

Abu Dhabi-based Juan Carlos was also “not a member of the ‘household'” of his son, the current Spanish King Felipe VI, that would give him legal protection, he added.

“The effect of the court’s decision is that the civil claim brought by the claimant will be allowed to proceed,” a summary of the judgment stated.

Lawyer Robin Rathmell, representing zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, said the ruling showed that Juan Carlos “cannot hide behind position, power or privilege to avoid this claim”.

He was now “answerable to an English court… as a private individual”.

Juan Carlos, listed in court documents by his full name — Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor Maria De Borbon y Borbon — strenuously denies the allegations.

Submissions claimed the king, who ruled from 1975 until his abdication in 2014, was in an “intimate romantic relationship” with zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn from 2004 to 2009.

The royal showered her with gifts, even after they broke up. But the situation soured when she declined to rekindle the relationship, leading him to pursue a “pattern of conduct amounting to harassment”, it was alleged.

As well as threats, break-ins and surveillance, Juan Carlos “demanded the return of gifts”, and, she claimed, she suffered “trespass and criminal damage” at her home in rural central England.

Gunshots were fired at and damaged security cameras at the front gate of the property, she alleged, accusing the former king of being angry at her refusals.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain shelves probe into €7-billion Saudi rail project contract

Spanish prosecutors have dropped a probe into suspicions Spanish firms paid kickbacks to secure a contract to build a high-speed rail link in Saudi Arabia, a ruling made public Thursday showed.

Spain shelves probe into €7-billion Saudi rail project contract

In 2011, Saudi Arabia awarded the contract worth €6.8 billion($7.2 billion) to a consortium of 12 Spanish companies and two Saudi firms to build the railway linking Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

Spanish prosecutors opened an investigation into the deal after a former mistress of Spain’s former king Juan Carlos was heard in a telephone conversation discussing commissions which were allegedly paid to secure the contract.

Anti-corruption prosecutors decided to shelve the probe “as it was not possible to determine the possible commission of the criminal offence”, according to the ruling dated May 4th.

The information which was gathered is “clearly insufficient”, and was “in part contradictory”, it added.

Juan Carlos was the target of a separate probe over the high-speed railway contract.

The investigation centred on $100 million Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah deposited into a Swiss bank account in 2008, to which Juan Carlos had access.

A unit of the highspeed train built by Spanish manufacturer Talgo is loaded onto a freighter in Barcelona’s port in 2014. (Photo by JOSEP LAGO / AFP)

Prosecutors dropped the probe in March, saying the could not establish “any link” between the receipt of the money and the awarding of the contract.

Swiss prosecutors had also opened a probe into the same issue in 2018 but dropped the case in December for lack of evidence.

Saudi Arabia opened the 444-kilometre (275-mile) railway to the public in October 2018. It has improved transport connections between Mecca and Medina during the annual haj pilgrimage.

Spanish construction and engineering firm OHL, train maker Talgo and state track operator Adif were among the firms which made part of the consortium that built the railway.