The British justice rejected on Thursday the request for immunity presented by the emeritus king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, in the framework of a harassment lawsuit filed by his ex-lover Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein before the High Court of London.
The defense of Juan Carlos de Borbón assured in December before the justice of England that he had immunity in his capacity as a “member of the Spanish royal family”.
His lawyer, Daniel Bethlehem, argued that under Britain’s 1978 State Immunity Act, the emeritus king could not be tried in British courts and that any charges against him had to be brought before the Spanish courts.RELATED
But Judge Matthew Nicklin ruled against her on Thursday, finding that “the plaintiff’s claim is based on harassing conduct by the defendant” and “such acts do not fall within the sphere of governmental or sovereign activity.” .
This allows Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, also known by her maiden name Corinna Larsen, to move forward with her civil lawsuit.
“Today’s sentence demonstrates that the defendant cannot hide behind any position, power or privilege to avoid this case,” said Robin Rathmell, attorney for the plaintiff.
“This is the first step on the road to justice; the appalling facts of this case will finally be brought to justice,” he added.
Juan Carlos I, 84, abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son Felipe VI, as a result of a series of scandals that began in 2012 with an elephant hunt in Botswana, where he traveled precisely accompanied by Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Danish businesswoman divorced from a German prince.
Subsequent revelations by this ex-lover about alleged embezzlement by Juan Carlos ended up leading the emeritus king to go into exile in August 2020 to the United Arab Emirates.
He has lived there ever since, away from Spanish political life and stripped after his abdication of the immunity that protected him since he was appointed head of state in 1975, after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco who had appointed him as his successor.
Praised internationally for decades and respected nationally for having helped bring democracy back to Spain, Juan Carlos has seen his popularity plummet in recent years.
“It is not clear” the role of the CNI
Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, 58, says she was a lover of the then monarch between 2004 and 2009 and denounces that, after their breakup, she was spied on and harassed by order of the former head of state, accusations that he denies “in the terms more energetic.”
She explained in court documents that she was close friends with him for a time after their separation, when he gave her “works of art, jewelry and financial gifts,” including payments worth about 65 million euros ($73 million) in June 2012.
But she claims that Juan Carlos tried to resume their relationship and, when she rejected him, the former sovereign engaged in a “pattern of behavior equivalent to harassment.”
He “demanded the return of gifts,” was “threatening,” and “subsequently conducted or organized a series of acts of covert and overt surveillance, causing distress and anxiety” to his former lover, according to the lawsuit, which notes the involvement of members of the Spanish secret services.
For Judge Nicklin, “the acts of surveillance alleged by the plaintiff, if they were carried out by agents of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), could enjoy State immunity, but the Spanish State has not claimed said immunity and it is not clear what role precisely what the CNI agents performed in the alleged acts of harassment”.
Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein denounces that during a meeting at the Connaught Hotel in London on May 5, 2012, an “agent or associate” of the former monarch was “threatening” towards her and her children.
And he assures that the meeting coincided “with the search of his apartments in Monaco and Villars, in Switzerland, where a book on the death of Princess Diana was left on a table.” AFP / by Anna Cuenca
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