Court told ‘ Juffali seriously ill with Cancer’
A Saudi billionaire using diplomatic immunity to shield him in a divorce battle with his Pirelli calendar girl ex-wife is ‘seriously ill with cancer’, a court has heard. Former supermodel Christina Estrada claims Walid Juffali’s immunity is void because he is unable to carry out his diplomatic duties, meaning the post has now ‘come to an end’ under Article 39 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Lawyers for Walid Juffali, who was appointed as St Lucia’s permanent representative to the International Maritime Organisation in April 2014, had sought to prevent Ms Estrada’s claims about the businessman’s health being made public.
However, Mr Justice Hayden lifted restrictions on the claims being reported during a hearing at the High Court in London on Thursday.
The court is considering whether Mr Juffali, who is worth £4billion, genuinely has legal immunity that would defeat Ms Estrada’s claim to a legally binding settlement and a share of his wealth, which includes an estate near Windsor and a seven-bedroom home in a converted church in Knightsbridge.
Mr Justice Hayden told the court that claims Mr Juffali is currently in hospital in Switzerland were ‘plainly relevant to my future case management’.
He added: ‘In many respects, transparency is one of the central aspects of this case. To assert immunity from a transparent legal process whilst at the same time seeking to inhibit the publication of assets of the wife’s claim seems to me to raise a question of fairness.
‘In my judgement it would be manifestly unfair to seek to micromanage the flow of information into the public domain in a case in which the public is entitled to hear the arguments in full and on both sides.’
Mr Justice Hayden issued an order on Wednesday for Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, to certify whether Britain had formally accepted Mr Juffali as a diplomat.
There is no record of Mr Juffali, 60, attending any meetings of the IMO since his appointment in April 2014, nor does he possess any known qualifications in shipping or maritime law.
His appointment as a diplomat to represent the Caribbean island in London was never formally announced to the St Lucian public.
Mr Juffali, chairman of one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest conglomerates, has strenuously denied his diplomatic position was sought in order to avoid a settlement in the UK courts, and says it was made in accordance with standard diplomatic procedures.
Allen Chastanet, the leader of the opposition, denounced Mr Juffali’s appointment as ‘odd, awkward and immoral’ and called for the Saudi to be removed.
Lawyers for Ms Estrada are also arguing his immunity is limited to his official, diplomatic functions and does not extend to the family court proceedings because he is ‘a permanent resident’ of the UK with strong and enduring ties to the country, including those with his ex-wife and his daughter, who was born in England.
Denying he is seeking to evade his responsibilities to his former partner and their teenage daughter, Mr Juffali claims he pays her around £70,000 a month in voluntary payments.
Mr Juffali says he made ‘generous’ provision and acquired for his ex-wife a property in Beverly Hills, California. He divorced her in Saudi Arabia after 13 years of marriage.
Ms Estrada, 53, says it is not possible for her to bring any financial claims against him in his Saudi homeland.
Last month the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote to St Lucia’s government formally requesting that Mr Juffali’s immunity be waived to allow Ms Estrada’s case to proceed.
However, the Saint Lucia government refused the request and told the FCO that it intends to ‘uphold the principle of diplomatic immunity’ by allowing Dr Juffali to invoke his diplomatic immunity in court.
Expensive: Mr Juffali owns Bishopsgate House (pictured), a country estate in Egham, Surrey, which includes a maze and tennis court. The estate is next to
Windsor Great Park and is just four miles from Windsor Castle.
Dispute: The High Court in London is considering whether Walid Juffali, who is worth £4billion, genuinely has legal immunity that would defeat former
supermodel Christina Estrada’s claim to a share of his wealth.