MADRID (Reuters) -Former Spanish King Juan Carlos could face trial in Britain in a harassment case brought against him by his former lover after the English High Court ruled on Thursday that he does not have the right to sovereign immunity.
Danish national Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein Sayn, who lives in Britain and has testified that she was romantically involved with the former monarch and received financial information and documents from him, alleged multiple acts of harassment between 2012 and 2020.
“If the case goes further, the Defendant will have an opportunity to defend the claims made against him and, ultimately, the Court will hear evidence and make a decision after a trial,” the ruling read.
Law firm Clifford Chance, which is representing Juan Carlos in the case, said their client was “disappointed” with the court’s decision and would decide whether or not to appeal after reviewing the judgement with his legal advisers.
The Royal Palace declined to comment. The former king has previously strongly denied what he calls “unsubstantiated allegations”, as the court acknowledged.
Spanish and Swiss prosecutors recently dropped a series of investigations into alleged fraud by Juan Carlos, 84, who left Spain for the United Arab Emirates in August 2020 under a cloud of scandal and has lived there since.
The Spanish national prosecutor’s office said Juan Carlos’s constitutional immunity as a monarch would have protected him even if they could prove wrongdoing in the fraud cases.
Formerly revered for his role in Spain’s transition to democracy, Juan Carlos was forced to abdicate in 2014 following a series of scandals including his affair with Sayn-Wittgenstein and is now seen as a liability for his son, King Felipe.
Despite the immunity in Spain, British judge Mr Justice Nicklin found there were no grounds for state immunity in the harassment case as it had no relation to governmental or sovereign activity, opening the door to a trial.
The court ruling said no investigation into the harassment claim was carried out.
It was not immediately clear if Sayn-Wittgenstein would seek a trial, but her lawyer Robin Rathmell called the ruling “the first step on the road to justice”.
“Today’s judgment demonstrates that this defendant cannot hide behind position, power, or privilege to avoid this claim,” Rathmell said in a statement.
(Reporting by Belén Carreño, Emma Pinedo and Inti Landauro; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Alexandra Hudson)