Politics

Spain’s ex-king Juan Carlos pleads immunity in English court citing 300-year-old Gibraltar treaty to avoid spying and harrasment charges brought by former lover


A high court battle brought against Spain’s former monarch took a surreal turn this week, when his legal team cited a 300-year-old treaty that established Gibraltar as a British territory to argue that he should not face prosecution.

Juan Carlos, 83, is seeking immunity from the English courts over allegations he caused his ex-lover Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, a Danish businesswoman, ‘great mental pain’ by spying on and harassing her. 

Lawyers representing the monarch, who abdicated from the Spanish throne in 2014 following a series of scandals, are using the Treaty of Utrecht to argue that their client should be granted immunity under Spanish, British and international laws.

Gibraltar Pavol Svantner / Unsplash
Gibraltar was ceded under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Photo by Pavol Svantner / Unsplash

The treaty signed in 1713 brought an end to the War of the Spanish Succession and ceded Gibraltar to Britain, it also established that the nations would not “endeavour to attempt anything to the destruction or detriment of the other”, nor to help anyone else who might “attempt the same”.

Now, Juan Carlos’s lawyers are arguing that the immunity he enjoyed for any actions before his abdication as head of state, is also covered by his status as honorary king and as a member of the household of his son, King Felipe VI.

Although he denies the allegations brought by Sayn-Wittgenstein in a civil claim to London’s High Court, his lawyers argue that even if he had, his status meant he would be immune from prosecution.

“Such alleged conduct, even if abusive or harmful, would have been in His Majesty’s official capacity,” reads the defendant’s statement to the court.

Sayn-Wittgenstein claims that Juan Carlos sent Spanish secret service agents to spy on her and intimidate her while she was living in London after the relationship soured.

Among the more bizarre claims of intimidation are that agents broke into her apartment and left a book on her coffee table about the death of Princess Diana alleging that it was orchestrated by MI6 and the CIA.

Sayn-Wittgenstein claims this was followed up by a phone call from an unknown Spanish man who told her that ‘there are many tunnels between Nice and Monaco’ alluding to where she then had a home.

Juan Carlos corinna cordon press
King Juan Carlos and his former lover Corinna Sayn-Wittgenstein in happier times. Photo: Cordon Press

In written submissions to the court, her legal team claim that agents carried out ‘trespass and criminal damage’ that included ‘drilling a hole into her bedroom window while she slept at night in her home in Shropshire on June 21, 2017… and gunshots fired at and damaging the lenses of her front gate CCTV on April 14, 2020′.

At the centre of the row between the former lovers is her refusal to return gifts, including €65 million he paid into an offshore bank account in her name in 2012, allegedly using funds donated to him by the Saudi royal as a kick back for business deals with Spain.

Sayn-Wittgenstein is seeking ‘personal injury damages’ for the ‘great mental pain, alarm, anxiety, distress, loss of wellbeing, humiliation and moral stigma’ she allegedly suffered.

Jonathan Caplan QC, representing Sayn-Wittgenstein in the High Court hearing that began on Monday argued that the former king had relinquished the status of ‘a sovereign or other head of state’ when he abdicated and was therefore not entitled to immunity.

He added that furthermore, he could not claim immunity as a member of the household of his son as he was now living in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi.

“The defendant is plainly not, and does not claim to be, a dependent of his son King Felipe VI,” he said.

The case comes just days after it was claimed that three of Spain’s largest companies colluded in covering up an affair that King Juan Carlos allegedly had with a former Miss World contestant.

Repsol, Santander and Telefonica are alleged to have each paid €1.8million in hush money to beauty queen Barbara Rey, now 71, on the request of former prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar.

The payments were reportedly made to Rey to prevent incriminating videos she had secretly recorded of pair being intimate from coming to light.

Spanish newspaper revealed the story last week after obtaining the notebooks of José Manuel Villarejo, a disgraced former police commissioner currently on trial for spying, fraud and bribery.

One recent book entitled ‘Juan Carlos: The King of 5,000 lovers’ by Amadeo Martinez Ingles claimed the former monarch, who married long suffering wife Sofia in 1962, was a sex addict who had slept with more than 2,000 women between 1976 and 1994.

In October it was alleged that Spain’s secret service had injected the royal lothario with female hormones to curb his rampant sex drive after it was deemed to be a danger to state security.

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