Juan Carlos I who is Spain’s former king has on Tuesday resumed a United Kingdom court battle which he had instigated to fully win some form of immunity over some of the harassment claims by his former lover, just as a new podcast featuring her claims had been released.
Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, 58, is also seeking apersonal injury damages from the 84-year-old former monarch, who had ruled Spain from 1975 until his abdication in 2014 and the British resident has accused Juan Carlos, who now lives in the United Arab Emirates, of spying on and harassing her after their relationship had soured in 2012.
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She had filed a harassment suit in London in 2020, alleging he pressured her to return gifts which were worth 65 million euros ($65 million), including some works of art and jewellery.
Juan Carlos, listed in court under his full name Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor Maria De Borbon y Borbon, has not appeared at any hearings so far and strenuously denies any wrongdoing.
In March, the High Court in London rejected his claim that a 1978 UK law meant 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 and three judges at the Court of Appeal began hearing legal arguments on Tuesday. A ruling is expected in a few weeks, after which the harassment lawsuit could continue.
Setting out his position, Juan Carlos’s lawyer, Tim Otty, argued that immunity is “a procedural bar” and says “nothing about the lawfulness or the morality of the conduct alleged”.
However, zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn’s lawyer, James Lewis had also argued the appeal should be dismissed, claiming the alleged harassment had involved “intelligence and surveillance” personnel acting as the former king’s “agents”.
The hearing comes as zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, who was also not present in court on Tuesday, has been discussing the relationship in a new podcast series called “Corinna and the King”.
Its release has stirred fresh controversy in Spain. Its creators — two London-based journalists — defend its timing and independence from zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.
“Imagine that someone who says they love your children — and that you’re the love of their life — would frame you in a criminal investigation,” she alleges in the first episode, which was made available on Monday.
Court submissions claim Juan Carlos, who is married, was in an “intimate romantic relationship” with the divorcee of a German prince from 2004 to 2009 and showered her with gifts.
Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn alleged that Juan Carlos began harassing her after their relationship broke down, using threats, break-ins at her properties and surveillance.
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 public knowledge in 2012, when the monarch broke a hip while on an elephant hunting holiday in Botswana with zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn and had to be flown home.