The ex-mistress of Spain’s former king Juan Carlos I is suing him for ‘tens of millions of euros’ in London’s High Court, having accused him of ‘unlawful covert and overt surveillance’.
German-born Danish entrepreneur Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, 57, had an affair with the 83-year-old monarch – who is married to Queen Sofia, 82 – between 2004 and 2009.
Their relationship was catapulted into the limelight in 2012 after he broke his hip during a safari trip to Botswana, on which she had accompanied him. Afterwards Corinna claimed Juan Carlos ‘gifted’ her €65 million (£59 million) out of guilt for the ‘intense pressure’ she came under and as an expression of his love.
It’s believed the payment came out of funds that originated with a $100million gift to Juan Carlos when he was king from the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2008.
German-born Danish entrepreneur Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, 57, is suing ex-lover Juan Carlos I, former king of Spain, for ‘tens of millions of euros’ in London’s High Court, having accused him of ‘unlawful covert and overt surveillance’
Swiss prosecutors then opened an investigation into bank accounts Juan Carlos allegedly held in tax havens, leading to the royal, who abdicated the throne in 2014, fleeing to Abu Dhabi last year.
Corinna, who lives in London, filed a claim in December accusing Juan Carlos of harassment ‘from 2012 until the present time’, including threats and defamation, as well as ‘unlawful covert and overt surveillance’ by agents of the former monarch and the Spanish intelligence service.
The claim was only made available by the court on Monday, reports the Financial Times. Corinna is reportedly seeking substantial damages and a restraining order.
Juan Carlos has denied any wrongdoing, but his legal team is yet to file a defence. The case will likely face a jurisdiction battle due to the ex-king not living in Britain and being a former head of state of another nation.
Corinna states in her claim that her former flame told her he ‘wanted to ensure that she and her children would be provided for’ but he was ‘concerned that his family would challenge anything he left to her in his will, after his death’.
Corinna and Juan Carlos’ relationship was catapulted into the limelight in 2012 after he broke his hip during a safari trip to Botswana, on which she had accompanied him. Afterwards Corinna claimed Juan Carlos ‘gifted’ her €65 million (£59 million) out of guilt for the ‘intense pressure’ she came under and as an expression of his love
She added that Juan Carlos asked her to return the sum of money or make it ‘available for his use’, which she declined.
She then alleges that he falsely accused her of stealing the cash and defamed her to her family and business partners, as well as to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, which resulted in a loss of income for her job working as a strategic consultant for ‘high-net-worth individuals and with leading companies around the world’.
As a result, she is now making a request for damages which are not specifically stipulated in the claim, but are believed to be in the region of tens of millions of euros.
Corinna is also seeking an injunction that would prevent Juan Carlos and his agents from coming within 150m of her home, communicating with her, making defamatory statements about her or tracking and harassing her.
She says the former head of the Spanish National Intelligence Agency (CNI) Félix Sanz Roldan, or people working for it or the ex-king, put her ‘under physical surveillance which included vehicle and personal surveillance, trespassing on to her property at which she was residing and hacking into her/their telephones and computers’.
Corinna is also seeking an injunction that would prevent Juan Carlos (pictured together in 2006) and his agents from coming within 150m of her home, communicating with her, making defamatory statements about her or tracking and harassing her
Corinna previously alleged that the CNI has spent millions on a campaign of harassment in the apparent belief that she possesses state secrets.
She has also claimed that a sustained attempt has been made to brainwash her children into believing she was corrupt, she has suffered a campaign of libellous ‘fake news’ coverage on the internet, all of which began following the public exposure of her five-year relationship with Juan Carlos.
Last year Corinna’s lawyers, Kobre & Kim, wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to warn them of a potential diplomatic row.
‘Discretion has been a watchword throughout my life with my family and my business,’ Corinna told The Mail on Sunday.
‘After eight years of abuse, which has also targeted my children, and given there is no end in sight, I reluctantly find myself with no other option but to pursue legal action.’
Twice-divorced Corinna became a princess through her second marriage, to German aristocrat Prince Casimir zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.
Corinna had an affair with the 83-year-old monarch – who is married to Queen Sofia, 82, pictured together in May 2004 – between 2004 and 2009
She is a long-time friend of Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret’s son, has been a regular at Prince Charles’s philanthropic occasions and was honoured at Buckingham Palace for her efforts in supporting the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Foundation.
In the world of international finance, Corinna is known for brokering deals between major corporations and is said to include several heads of state in her contacts book.
Prince Albert of Monaco was the guest of honour at Harry’s Bar in London for her 40th birthday dinner – other guests that night included members of the Astor, Spencer-Churchill, Goldsmith, Versace and Swarovski families.
But this glamorous way of life came to a halt after it emerged she had conducted a five-year relationship with the married King of Spain, Juan Carlos.
And from that moment on, she says, the Spanish secret service trained its sights on her.
Soon after the affair was revealed she found herself trailed by a team of Spanish-speaking men while on business in Brazil. Later that same year she said her Monaco apartment was occupied for more than a month by French and Polish mercenaries.
She was informed by the Spanish intelligence services that the mercenaries – employed through a Monagesque security company – were there for her protection, but she believes the real objective was to occupy her flat and remove documents.
‘I was in constant danger,’ she said. ‘At first, I thought these men were going to throw me over the balcony.’
Corinna says she was threatened by Juan Carlos who allegedly told her ‘the consequences for her «will not be good» if she failed to do what he wanted’.
She also alleges that the Sultan of Oman bought a £50million flat in London’s Knightsbridge for Juan Carlos’ use, and that her ex-lover asked her to pay a £200,000 deposit for service charges, which she refused.
Corinna has previously compared herself to Wallis Simpson, the American socialite who stirred controversy by marrying the Duke of Windsor, the former British king Edward VIII, arguing she was blamed for the scandal-hit king’s downfall.
She questioned why ‘hostility is always channeled towards the woman’ in an interview with The Telegraph.
‘There is a tendency that when people cannot control a powerful man, they destroy the object of his affection,’ she told the newspaper.
‘This narrative still survives to this day. You can even see it with Meghan and Harry.
‘The hostility always goes to the woman and the poor man is this helpless creature who has been horribly manipulated and it is the woman who has plunged the country into a huge crisis.’
Juan Carlos has not been charged with any offence, but is facing three separate criminal probes in Spain.
One is related to the use of credit cards linked to foreign accounts after his June 2014 abdication when he lost his constitutional protection against prosecution as a serving monarch.
Prosecutors are trying to establish if the monarch accessed funds deposited in accounts held by a Mexican businessman and a Spanish Air Force official.
Spain has also launched its own investigation based in part on information shared by Switzerland about cash Juan Carlos allegedly received as part of his involvement in a high-speed Saudi Arabia rail contract.
In December, the ex-monarch’s lawyer announced he had paid more than £600,000 in back-taxes with interest and surcharges for the years since his abdication.
Spanish authorities responded by saying they were analysing the tax payments to see if they were ‘spontaneous, truthful and complete.’
Juan Carlos’ shock departure from Spain at the start of August led to an intense questioning of the country’s monarchy led by left-wing vice-president Pablo Iglesias.
Spain’s current king, Juan Carlos’ son Felipe VI, made a veiled dig at his exiled father and the scandals surrounding his family in his Christmas speech.
He said in a televised address that ‘ethics are above family ties’.
Who is Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos I?
Juan Carlos I reigned as king of Spain from November 1975 until his abdication in June 2014
Juan Carlos I reigned as king of Spain from November 1975 until his abdication in June 2014.
He was a popular monarch for most of his four-decade reign who played a critical role in the country’s transition to democracy.
He is the grandson of Alfonso XIII, the last king of Spain before the abolition of the monarchy in 1931 and the subsequent declaration of the Second Spanish Republic.
Juan Carlos was born in Rome, Italy, on January 5, 1938, during his family’s exile. He came to Spain in 1947 to continue his studies and entered the Zaragoza military academy.
He completed his tertiary education at the University of Madrid and went on to marry Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark in Athens in 1962.
They went on to have two daughters and a son together: Elena, Cristina, and Felipe.
Juan Carlos first began periodically acting as Spain’s head of state in the summer of 1974. Fascist dictator Francisco Franco died in November the following year and Juan Carlos became king on 22 November 1975, two days after Franco’s death.
Juan Carlos was hailed for his role in Spain’s transition to democracy and reforms to dismantle the Francoist regime.
However the King and the monarchy’s reputation began to suffer after controversies surrounding his family arose.
In April 2012, Juan Carlos faced criticism for an elephant-hunting trip in Botswana during a time of financial crisis in Spain.
The public found out about the trip only after the King injured himself and a special aircraft was sent to bring him home.
Pictured left to right: Then-Princess Letizia , Prince Felipe, Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos pose for a photo in 2009
Spanish officials stated that the expenses of the trip were not paid by taxpayers or by the palace, but by Syrian businessman Mohamed Eyad Kayali.
Corruption scandals circling the royal family closed in when his daughter, Princess Cristina, was accused of tax fraud in 2014 and became the first Spanish royal to stand trial. She was later acquitted, but her husband was sentenced.
He abdicated in favour of his son, Prince Felipe, in 2014, and announced his decision to withdraw from public life, ending his remaining institutional functions and appearances from June 2019. He then successfully underwent heart surgery in Madrid.
In June 2020, Spain’s supreme court prosecutor opened an investigation into Juan Carlos’ involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia that was granted to a group of Spanish companies in 2011.
King Felipe renounced his own inheritance and stripped his father of his palace allowance in March after reports the latter received $100 million from the late Saudi king and gave millions to a businesswoman – Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.