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

Less than three peo­ple in all of Saint Lu­cia had ever heard of him when I called Newsspin to ask the host if he knew Saint Lu­cia was rep­re­sented on the In­ter­na­tional Marine Or­ga­ni­za­tion by a Saudi multi-bil­lion­aire named Walid Juffali. He had not, let alone that Sheik Juffali had held his po­si­tion for a full year with not a word, not a word, not a word from the govern­ment about the diplo­matic ap­point­ment.

Three days later, the word was ev­ery­where. The UK’s Tele­graph and the Daily Mail had bro­ken the story that Mr. Juffali, whose re­li­gion per­mit­ted him more than one wife at a time, had been sued by his sec­ond wife Christina Estrada who was also de­mand­ing a set­tle­ment to­tal­ing mul­ti­mil­lions. By all the on­line pa­pers told, Juffali’s lawyers had claimed he was beyond the reach of the UK courts, thanks to his diplo­matic sta­tus be­stowed on him by “the small is­land na­tion Saint Lu­cia.”

The is­sue soon caught po­lit­i­cal fire here, with the leader of the United Work­ers Party, Allen Chas­tanet swing­ing the big­gest torch. What the politi­cian wanted to know was why Saint Lu­cians had not known be­fore of Mr. Juffali’s ap­point­ment. He also de­manded the govern­ment ex­plain why the is­land’s diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the IMO had never at­tended a sin­gle meet­ing of the in­sti­tu­tion.

The first the na­tion heard on the mat­ter from its prime min­is­ter took the form of an at­tack on the mo­tives of the UWP leader. The prime min­is­ter in­tro­duced Walid Juffali as a phi­lan­thropist who vis­ited Saint Lu­cia aboard his yacht and fell in love at first sight of the Pi­tons. So smit­ten was the Saudi bil­lion­aire that he had of­fered to gift the is­land with a di­a­betes re­search cen­ter.

“Why would Chas­tanet not want that for Saint Lu­cia?” asked Kenny An­thony in cam­paign mode. As for the UWP’s leader’s de­mand that the govern­ment help clear the way for Christina Estrada to have her day in court, the prime min­is­ter said his govern­ment was not about to lift Juffali’s im­mu­nity, for that would set a bad prece­dent. He said the ques­tion whether Juffali’s im­mu­nity claim was valid should be left to the UK courts.

When fi­nally the mat­ter came be­fore a judge, he said he could find no rea­son why Juffali’s al­leged diplo­matic sta­tus should stand in the way of Ms Estrada. He said it seemed clear to him that the Saudi had sought his diplo­matic ap­point­ment solely for the pur­pose of deny­ing his for­mer wife the op­por­tu­nity to seek re­dress be­fore a court.

As it turned out, a higher court fi­nally de­cided the im­mu­nity Juffali’s lawyers claimed for their client was ir­rel­e­vant, since it did not ap­ply to ap­pointees who were also UK res­i­dents—such as Juffali. Three weeks ago the court awarded Christina Estrada a set­tle­ment of sev­eral mil­lion pounds.

Mean­while, Juffali lay ter­mi­nally ill with cancer in a Zurich hospi­tal. Early Fri­day morn­ing the Saudi re­port­edly suc­cumbed. Word of his death had not yet been made pub­lic when it reached the STAR via con­tacts in Switzer­land and Lon­don.

Said one of the sources, “Juffali wanted mem­bers of his fam­ily and other close rel­a­tives to be told be­fore news ap­peared in the me­dia.” Whether Juffali’s prom­ise to Kenny An­thony will be in­terred with the Saudi’s bones re­mains to be seen!

The man who promised Kenny An­thony a re­search cen­ter for di­a­betes and who was ap­pointed Saint Lu­cia’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the IMO de­spite hav­ing to con­nec­tions with the is­land or marine mat­ters re­port­edly suc­cumbed to cancer early Fri­day morn­ing.

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