The High Court of Justice in London has made public a civil suit filed against Spain’s emeritus king Juan Carlos I, the father of the reigning monarch Felipe VI. The claim of harassment and unlawful surveillance was made in December 2020 by lawyers representing Corinna Larsen, a Monaco-based business consultant known for her relationship with the former king. According to legal sources, Juan Carlos has been aware of the claim for months. In the 20-page-long document, Larsen asks for an injunction restraining the emeritus king from contacting her, following her, defaming her or coming within a distance of 150 meters.
The relationship between Corinna Larsen and Spain’s king emeritus came into the public spotlight as a result of the 2012 accident that Juan Carlos suffered in Botswana, where they were both on a hunting safari. The incident damaged the monarch’s reputation and was partially behind his surprise decision to abdicate in 2014.
In her claim, Larsen – who still uses her ex-husband’s surname, zu Sayn-Wittgenstein – blames the emeritus king for the “covert and overt surveillance” that was allegedly carried out by officers from Spain’s CNI intelligence services in London, where she lives, and in Montecarlo, where she has another home. According to the claim, these events took place from 2012. Larsen is requesting an unspecified amount in compensation for damages.
The claim states that Juan Carlos donated $100 million (€64.8 million) to Larsen in 2012 and later demanded the amount be returned “or placed at his disposal.” When Larsen refused to give back the money, the former king defamed her by saying she had “stolen” it. The document claims that Juan Carlos told both King Salman of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the alleged robbery.
The $100 million was sent to Juan Carlos by the former king of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who died in 2015. This money was transferred on August 8, 2008, to a secret account in Switzerland opened in the name of Lucum Foundation, a Panama-based entity whose first beneficiary was Juan Carlos I. Investigators in Switzerland have been investigating this transfer since August 2018, as part of an operation into money laundering crimes. Part of this money – which was not declared to the Spanish Tax Agency – was allegedly used for Juan Carlos’s personal expenses, and in 2012, following changes to Swiss law, was transferred to Larsen’s account at a Bahamas bank named Gonet & Cie. The Spanish Supreme Court is currently carrying out three investigations into the former king’s opaque accounts and financial irregularities. Juan Carlos can only be tried by the Supreme Court, given that he enjoys partial immunity thanks to his status as an aforado – a legal term in Spanish referring to individuals such as high-ranking politicians who are protected from prosecution in the lower courts.
Although Larsen’s claim is solely aimed at Juan Carlos I, it also suggests that General Félix Sanz Roldán, the former director of the CNI, actively participated in the alleged surveillance operation. The general has admitted to traveling to London in May 2012 to meet with Larsen at The Connaught Hotel.
A judge appointed by the High Court of Justice will now take charge of the investigation and will have a maximum of 18 months to carry out the probe. Legal sources point out that the emeritus king’s alleged immunity as a former head of state may not stand up in court as there is already a precedent against this. In 2000, the British House of Lords ruled that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet had no right to immunity from prosecution as a former head of state due to the egregious nature of his crimes.
Juan Carlos has been beset by accusations of wrongdoing regarding his finances in recent years. In 2020, Felipe VI announced that he would renounce any inheritance from his father and stripped him of his yearly stipend paid out by the Royal Household. In August of that year, Juan Carlos left Spain for the United Arab Emirates, where he has been living ever since.
English version by Melissa Kitson.