Spain opens probe into King Juan Carlos’s hunting expenses

Spain's tax office has opened an investigation into the former king's expenses during hunting expeditions, a newspaper reported Wednesday, just months after prosecutors shelved three other probes into his financial affairs.

Spain opens probe into King Juan Carlos's hunting expenses
Spanish King Juan Carlos leaving the hospital in 2012 after breaking his hip on an African elephant hunting trip in Botswana. “Sorry, it won’t happen again,” he told journalists at the time. (Photo by PACO CAMPOS / POOL / AFP)

According to El Mundo daily, the tax office has asked Juan Carlos I “to account for the origin of funds used to pay for the flights and other expenses incurred” on various hunting trips between 2014 and 2018.

The suspicion is that the hunting trips, which took place after his abdication in 2014 when he no longer benefitted from immunity as king, were paid for as a gift.

Taxpayers in Spain must declare any gifts received to the authorities within a certain timeframe.

Contacted by AFP, the tax office refused to comment.

The former king flew back to Spain last month for his first visit in nearly two years, since fleeing to Abu Dhabi to live in self-imposed exile following a string of financial scandals.

Although prosecutors closed their probes into his affairs in March, revelations about the murky origins of his fortune have done irreparable damage to a figure once revered for his role in Spain’s democratic transition after decades of dictatorship.

According to the newspaper, the sums involved do not exceed €120,000  ($129,000) per year, which is the threshold for an offence against the treasury.

Such an offence carries a penalty of between one and five years in prison.

Earlier this year, prosecutors admitted identifying “sums defrauded from the Treasury” between 2008 and 2012 but said they were dropping the case for reasons including “the inviolability of the head of state and tax regularisation” payments he made in recent years.

No more regattas… for now

Since leaving Spain in August 2020, Juan Carlos has twice settled tax debts on undeclared income for over five million euros ($5.37 million) in what was widely seen as a bid to avoid being charged with a crime.

During his brief trip home last month, which stirred much controversy, the 84-year-old attended a regatta in Sanxenxo in the north-western Galicia region then spent half a day at Madrid’s Zarzuela Palace with his son, King Felipe VI, and other family members.

He had been due to return this weekend for another regatta featuring his six-metre (20-foot) racing yacht “Bribon” (Spanish for ‘rascal’), but recently pulled out, a spokesman for the Sanxenxo sailing club told AFP.

El País newspaper said his decision was likely taken in light of the palace’s determination to avoid another controversial media spectacle such as that generated by his first trip.

It is not the first time that Juan Carlos’ passion for hunting has got him into trouble: 10 years ago, when Spain was mired in recession during the global financial crisis, it emerged that he had taken a luxury elephant hunting trip in Botswana with his former lover.

Details came out after he broke his hip and had to be flown home for surgery, prompting him to publicly apologise.

That incident shattered years of silence over his opulent lifestyle, ruining his image and triggering a string of investigations into his opaque fortune.

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Spain’s former king appeals against UK harassment lawsuit as ex-lover speaks out on podcast

Spain's former king Juan Carlos I on Tuesday resumes a UK court battle over harassment claims by his former lover Corinna, who has spoken candidly about her troublesome relationship with the Spanish monarch in a new podcast.

Spain's former king appeals against UK harassment lawsuit as ex-lover speaks out on podcast

Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, 58, is seeking personal injury damages from the 84-year-old former monarch, who ruled Spain from 1975 until his abdication in 2014.

The British resident has accused Juan Carlos, who now lives in the United Arab Emirates, of spying on and harassing her after their relationship soured in 2012.

She filed a harassment suit in London in 2020, alleging he pressured her to return gifts worth 65 million euros ($65 million), including works of art and jewellery.

Juan Carlos, listed in court under his full name Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor Maria De Borbón y Borbón, has not appeared at hearings so far and strenuously denies any wrongdoing.

In March, the High Court in London rejected Juan Carlos’s claim that English courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case because he has state immunity as a royal.

Judge Matthew Nicklin said 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”.

The former king’s lawyers appealed and won permission for a legal challenge concerning the period when Juan Carlos was on the throne.

This will be examined by three judges at the Court of Appeal from 1030 GMT on Tuesday, with a ruling expected in a few weeks, after which the harassment lawsuit will continue.


The hearings resume as Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn has been discussing the relationship in a recent podcast called “Corinna and the King”.

Court submissions claim Juan Carlos, who is married, was in an “intimate romantic relationship” with the divorcee from 2004 to 2009 and showered her with gifts.

She alleged that Juan Carlos began harassing her after their relationship broke down, using threats, break-ins at her properties and surveillance.

The podcast is available on Spotify here and other platforms.

Juan Carlos “demanded the return of gifts”, she claimed, and 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.

The couple’s relationship became known in 2012, when the monarch broke a hip while on holiday in Botswana with Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn and had to be flown home, sparking public anger during a period of record unemployment in Spain.

Two years later, dogged by the scandals and health problems, Juan Carlos abdicated at the age of 76 in favour of his son Felipe VI, who has now distanced himself from his father.

Juan Carlos went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in 2020.

The pair attended the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September and were seated together.

Juan Carlos was protected for decades by his huge popularity as a key figure in the democratic transition following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

The excesses of the monarch only came to light in the last years of his reign, triggering a string of investigations over corruption scandals.