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.

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Spain seizes first underwater drug smuggling drones

Spanish police said on Monday they had seized six underwater drones capable of transporting large quantities of drugs from Morocco to Spain and broken up a gang suspected of manufacturing them.

Spain seizes first underwater drug smuggling drones

Officers seized six of the so-called “drone submarines” and arrested eight people in raids carried out in Barcelona and the southern provinces of Málaga and Cádiz, a police statement said.

Police said it was the first time they had seized such devices, which are officially known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

They believe the gang made underwater drones “capable of bearing big loads” for use by other criminal organisations.

“These devices could allow drug traffickers to transport large quantities of narcotics remotely across the Strait of Gibraltar,” the statement said.

The drones had up to 12 motors each and a range of 30 kilometres (18 miles).

That is easily enough to manage an underwater crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco which measures just 15 kilometres (nine miles).

Three of the drones were due to be delivered to a French drug ring to “transport significant amounts of cocaine”, the statement said.

The gang also built false bottoms into vehicles to allow gangs to smuggle drugs, as well as “unmanned semi-submersible vessels” that could carry up to 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) of product.

Their customers included criminal gangs in Denmark, France, Italy and Spain, police said.

Spain’s physical proximity to Morocco, a major hashish producer, and its close ties with former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it a key entry point for drugs bound for Europe.