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.

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