Has promised Di­a­betes Re­search Cen­ter Gone Up In Smoke?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

Be­fore that most en­light­en­ing re­port in The Tele­graph sev­eral weeks ago, few Saint Lu­cians had heard of Walid Juf­fali. Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs per­son­nel who had heard of him—“but vaguely”—were al­to­gether in the dark about his re­la­tion­ship with the peo­ple of this na­tion. (Ac­tu­ally, they con­fused Walid with his daugh­ter, our hon­orary con­sul in Saudi Ara­bia!) Mo­ti­vated by what I’d read in the UK pa­per, in par­tic­u­lar that the multi-bil­lion­aire Arab was Saint Lu­cia’s Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion, I con­tacted the Fish­eries Depart­ment per­chance to hook a peek un­der the veil that ren­dered se­cret Walid Juf­fali’s re­ported links with our gov­ern­ment.

A some­what em­bar­rassed of­fi­cial con­fessed he knew noth­ing about the Saudi’s re­ported ap­point­ment. Al­though IMO de­ci­sions im­pact Saint Lu­cia ship­ping, he could think of no good rea­son why we needed a reg­u­lar pres­ence on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board. He kindly sug­gested I con­tact the gov­ern­ment’s ad­vi­sor on mat­ters marine: Mr. Cuth­bert Di­dier.

Sev­eral times I failed to reach him. But then I caught Di­dier telling Newsspin’s Ti­mothy Poleon that notwith­stand­ing his job he was as sur­prised as the rest of the na­tion by The Tele­graph’s rev­e­la­tions. On the ad­vice of still an­other pub­lic ser­vant I called SLASPA, only to be in­formed that on all mat­ters IMO the depart­ment re­lied on the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs—which I took to mean the SLASPA of­fi­cial was in no po­si­tion to speak with au­thor­ity on Walid Juf­fali.

At the heart of the cited on­line pub­li­ca­tion was that one of his for­mer wives, an Amer­i­can and a for­mer model who was seek­ing a mighty chunk of Juf­fali’s huge for­tune, had found her­self am­bushed at the pass, so to speak. To her great sur­prise, her for­mer hus­band, now re­mar­ried a third time, had some­how landed a diplo­matic post that ac­cord­ing to his lawyers ren­dered him im­mune to her ef­forts at drag­ging him be­fore a di­vorce court. In short, that their client was be­yond the reach of UK jus­tice.

Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter ad­dressed the Juf­fali story for the first time three days af­ter it ap­peared in The Tele­graph on­line. Stand­ing tall on the steps of the Castries mar­ket and cos­tumed for war, he aimed at the red hearts ar­rayed be­fore him. By all he said on the re­called evening, Juf­fali had more than a year ear­lier vis­ited Saint Lu­cia aboard his lux­ury yacht and at first sight of He­len’s leg­endary twin peaks had fallen in love. So com­pletely that he im­me­di­ately of­fered to do­nate to her care­tak­ers an es­tab­lish­ment ded­i­cated to the erad­i­ca­tion of the dis­ease that for count­less years had plagued her off­spring: di­a­betes.

Asked the prime min­is­ter, in tones rem­i­nis­cent of fi­nal good-byes: “What’s wrong with that? What does Allen Chas­tanet have against this coun­try that he would at­tack a man who has of­fered to help save thou­sands of Saint Lu­cia lives; thou­sands who now suf­fer from di­a­betes?” As for the ex­pressed wish from some quar­ters that he should waive the im­mu­nity Juf­fali en­joyed only by virtue of his be­ing our man at the IMO, the prime min­is­ter said to com­ply would set “a dan­ger­ous prece­dent” that would ad­versely af­fect diplo­mats ev­ery­where. Be­sides, “rig­or­ous due dili­gence by both lo­cal and UK au­thor­i­ties” had proved the Saudi squeaky clean. (The par­tic­u­lar as­ser­tion was later de­nied by the UK gov­ern­ment.) His fi­nal pub­lic word on Juf­fali was that his ad­min­is­tra­tion con­sid­ered the Saudi and his ex-wife’s mar­i­tal situation a per­sonal mat­ter to be set­tled am­i­ca­bly by the prin­ci­pals or by a court of law.

On Jan­uary 18, 2016 the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice an­nounced it had in­formed the For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Of­fice that it in­tended to up­hold “the prin­ci­ple of diplo­matic im­mu­nity by al­low­ing its Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion to in­voke his diplo­matic im­mu­nity in the civil case brought by his ex-wife.” More­over, that “based on le­gal ad­vice and prece­dence es­tab­lished in in­ter­na­tional diplo­matic prac­tice the prin­ci­ple of diplo­matic im­mu­nity must be safe­guarded and should only be lifted in ex­cep­tional cases . . . This case does not war­rant the lift­ing of the im­mu­nity of Dr. Juf­fali . . . The par­ties should be al­lowed to set­tle their mat­ri­mo­nial dis­pute through ne­go­ti­a­tions and fail­ing that the courts should de­cide if im­mu­nity should be waived in this mat­ter.”

Last month a UK high court presided over by Jus­tice Hay­den ruled that Juf­fali’s exwife Christina Estrada could lay claim to a share of his prop­erty port­fo­lio in Bri­tain. Also that Juf­fali had sought to de­feat Estrada’s ac­tion by as­sert­ing “a spu­ri­ous im­mu­nity based on his ap­point­ment as a Caribbean diplo­mat in Lon­don.” The judge found “no ev­i­dence Mr. Juf­fali had any knowl­edge of mar­itime mat­ters, seaborne trade, ship­ping or in­deed any of the spe­cial­ized ar­eas with which the IMO is con­cerned.”

The judge also was “sat­is­fied that Mr. Juf­fali sought and ob­tained a diplo­matic ap­point­ment with the sole in­ten­tion of de­feat­ing Ms. Estrada’s claims con­se­quent on the break­down of their mar­riage. Mr. Juf­fali has not in any real sense taken up his ap­point­ment, nor has he dis­charged any re­spon­si­bil­i­ties con­nected with it. I draw back from call­ing it a sham, mind­ful of the pre­ci­sion re­quired to sup­port such a con­clu­sion.” The judge also threw out Juf­fali’s claim he was be­yond the arm of the court in the mat­ter at hand be­cause he was not res­i­dent in the UK. Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment with the court’s rul­ing. He promised fur­ther com­ment fol­low­ing the out­come of Juf­fali’s ap­peal.

On Tues­day the ver­dict was in. Among other ob­ser­va­tions the ap­peal court judges held that the high court judge “erred in his ap­proach to the im­mu­nity is­sue and was wrong to hold that [Juf­fali] was not in prin­ci­ple en­ti­tled to im­mu­nity from [Estrada’s] claim for fi­nan­cial relief . . .” As to whether Juf­fali was a per­ma­nent res­i­dent in the UK, the ap­peal court up­held Jus­tice Hay­den’s de­ci­sion that in­deed Juf­fali was, and there­fore he was “not en­ti­tled to im­mu­nity since his [for­mer wife’s claim] does not arise in re­spect of of­fi­cial acts per­formed in the ex­er­cise of his func­tions.”

Fi­nally the ap­peal court con­cluded that Walid Juf­fali was “not en­ti­tled to im­mu­nity be­cause he is per­ma­nently res­i­dent in the UK and the claim does not re­late to any of­fi­cial acts per­formed by him in the ex­er­cise of his func­tions.” Juf­fali’s ap­peal was dis­missed. Christina Estrada is now free to pur­sue her claims on his prop­erty port­fo­lio in the UK, which her ex-hus­band had sought to pre­vent by claim­ing im­mu­nity in the name of the gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia.

Of­ten over the last sev­eral weeks Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter had claimed he was wary of set­ting “a dan­ger­ous prece­dent” by lift­ing Juf­fali’s pre­sumed im­mu­nity in re­la­tion to his ex-wife’s claim. It turns out a prece­dent has in­deed been set, at any rate in the UK: the Juf­fali mat­ter marked the first time a di­vorcee ever sought to block a set­tle­ment hear­ing on the ba­sis of diplo­matic im­mu­nity. In any event, Juf­fali’s IMO sta­tus fi­nally proved ir­rel­e­vant.

As for the prime min­is­ter’s re­cent state­ment that the court had “le­git­imized” Juf­fali’s diplo­matic sta­tus, that ques­tion was never be­fore a court. What was in ques­tion was whether the im­mu­ni­ties it of­fered ex­tended to his exwife’s claim. Two courts have agreed they do not—not to men­tion the Vi­enna Con­ven­tion that stip­u­lates at Sec­tion 31 that diplo­matic priv­i­leges and im­mu­ni­ties are not to ben­e­fit in­di­vid­u­als but to en­sure the ef­fi­cient per­for­mance of the func­tions of diplo­matic mis­sions of rep­re­sent­ing States.

No date has yet been re­leased as to the start of work on the Juf­fali Di­a­betes Re­search Cen­ter. Among other mat­ters pre­vi­ously un­men­tioned is that Saint Lu­cia’s gen­er­ous Saudi lover has for some time been hos­pi­tal­ized at a Zurich hospital. Mean­while, from the once gar­ru­lous Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs min­is­ter Alva Bap­tiste, not a word, not a word, not a word!

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny Anthony: Will UK court de­ci­sion af­fect

Juf­fali gift?

Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Alva Bap­tiste: Quite un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, he has not only dis­ap­peared from lo­cal TV screens but has prac­ti­cally gone silent and in­com­mu­ni­cado. Since the Juf­fali af­fair, not a word, not a word, not a word. Has the

PM’s cat got the min­is­ter’s tongue?

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny Anthony: He thanked a UK court this week for “le­git­imiz­ing” Walid Juf­fali’s ap­point­ment

as Saint Lu­cia’s Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the IMO. But what the court ruled on was the ir­rel­e­vance of the Saudi’s pre­sumed diplo­matic im­mu­nity to his

ex-wife’s claim on his prop­erty port­fo­lio!

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