Post Va­cant

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Sheik Walid Juf­fali, who died 20th July of can­cer at the age of 61, was chair­man of a com­pany that was founded by his fa­ther Sheikh Ahmed. The Juf­falis' an­ces­try goes back to the 15th cen­tury rulers of much of what is now Iraq and eastern Saudi Ara­bia. In the late 19th cen­tury the fam­ily be­gan pro­vid­ing camels to pil­grims travelling to Mecca; much later, the Juf­falis won the con­tract to build its first elec­tric­ity plant at Taif, south­east of the Holy City. Later, they con­cen­trated on in­fra­struc­ture projects, fer­ry­ing wa­ter by lorry from their farm to sup­ply these en­ter­prises. By the 1950s they had sub­stan­tial ce­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, agri­cul­ture and con­struc­tion busi­nesses. When oil be­gan to boom, they brought in tech­nol­ogy, ex­per­tise and goods to eager con­sumers; they be­came the ex­clu­sive agent for Mercedes and also built a fac­tory to make Daim­ler-Benz trucks. Sim­i­lar deals were struck with com­pa­nies such as IBM, Massey-Fer­gu­son, Siemens, Bosch, Miche­lin and Elec­trolux. By the 1970s, the firm was grow­ing at 50% each year and was said to be the largest pri­vately owned busi­ness in Saudi Ara­bia, em­ploy­ing more than 50,000 peo­ple.

Walid was the el­dest of Ahmed's four chil­dren. He prob­a­bly at­tended school in the Le­banon and then Switzer­land. He stud­ied busi­ness at the Univer­sity of San Diego, grad­u­at­ing in 1977, and earned a doc­tor­ate in Neu­ro­science at Im­pe­rial Col­lege, Lon­don. Af­ter work­ing for sev­eral decades for the fam­ily firm, he be­came its chair­man fol­low­ing his fa­ther's death in 1994. He was also chair­man of Saudi Amer­i­can Bank and, in 2005, was lined up, some­what in­con­gru­ously, to front the king­dom's ver­sion of The Ap­pren­tice, the tele­vi­sion real­ity show made fa­mous by Don­ald Trump

Walid mar­ried three times. His first mar­riage, which lasted over 20 years, was to a Saudi woman, Basma al-Su­laiman in 1980; she bore him three chil­dren. They lived in a mar­ble palace in Jeddah; among their guests were Mar­garet Thatcher, John Ma­jor and Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush. When the cou­ple divorced, Walid gave his ex-wife a 40 mil­lion dol­lar set­tle­ment..

In 2000, he met Christina Estrada; they were mar­ried in Dubai in 2001, had a daugh­ter and lived in their var­i­ous houses in Bri­tain. In 2012, how­ever, Christina learned that she been re­placed by a younger model in Walid's af­fec­tions, Lou­jain Adada, a tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter, who at 25 was 35 years his ju­nior. Walid had divorced Christina in Saudi Ara­bia un­der Is­lamic law with­out her knowl­edge, mar­ried his third wife in Venice in a lav­ish cer­e­mony said to have cost £10 mil­lion, and had two chil­dren while he and Christina were still mar­ried. Not long af­ter, Walid learned that he had can­cer.

Fol­low­ing their di­vorce in 2014, Christina made a claim for re­lief from Walid for £196 mil­lion that in­cluded pro­vi­sion for a £55 mil­lion Lon­don house, £1 mil­lion a year for clothes, in­clud­ing £109,000 for cou­ture dresses, £40,000 for fur coats, and £21,000 for shoes. She also bud­geted £58,000 for two hand­bags every year, £23,000 for six more casual bags, and £35,000 on 10 clutches. She claimed travel costs of £2.1 mil­lion in­clud­ing £600,000 for pri­vate jet hire. For her cell­phone bill, she asked for £26,000 a year, and £495,000 for five cars. “I have lived this life,” she tes­ti­fied. This is what I am ac­cus­tomed to. It is difficult to con­vey the ex­tra­or­di­nary level of lux­ury and opu­lence we were for­tu­nate enough to en­joy.” She was fi­nally awarded a £75 mil­lion, or about $100 mil­lion, set­tle­ment—a £53 mil­lion cash pay­ment and £20 mil­lion of her own as­sets. It was, the BBC said, the largest award ever made by an English court. Walid claimed diplo­matic im­mu­nity as St Lu­cia's rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion. The Court of Ap­peal judged that even if he did have im­mu­nity it did not af­fect the di­vorce pro­ceed­ings and or­dered him to pay Christina by July 29 of this year.

Now, even though the prime min­is­ter of the time in­sisted that the mat­ter of Walid's diplo­matic ap­point­ment was en­tirely above­board, and who would doubt his word, there is the small mat­ter of a hospi­tal or re­search fa­cil­ity for di­a­bet­ics that Walid had promised to build be­cause he, or some­one near and dear to him, had fallen in love with our is­land; the of­fer was even de­bated and ap­proved in Kenny's House of Assem­bly, if mem­ory serves me right. One has to be­lieve that Labour MP Dr. Ernest Hi­laire, who seems to have played a cen­tral role in the whole af­fair, sin­cerely trusted that his Saudi bil­lion­aire friend, who was al­ready dy­ing when the prom­ise was made, was in­deed act­ing phi­lan­throp­i­cally and would see to it that his word was kept even af­ter his death. Well, it seems un­likely the fa­cil­ity will ever be built; our new gov­ern­ment shows no in­ter­est and the Saudis have gone quiet. Per­haps the ac­cu­sa­tions of the abuse of diplo­matic im­mu­nity were true af­ter all. What­ever the case may be, there's a va­cant po­si­tion as our rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion cry­ing out to be filled. No knowl­edge of mar­itime af­fairs is re­quired.

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