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23 March 2016 0 Comments
Posted in Opinion

Foreign Secretary makes unusual intervention in immunity dispute

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

A row involving a billionaire businessman, who was accused of using diplomatic immunity to avoid divorce proceedings, was reignited this week.

Last month, a High Court Judge agreed to strip Sheikh Walid Juffali of the immunity, which was bestowed upon him after he assumed a position with the International Maritime Organisation in the Caribbean island of St Lucia.

Last month Justice Anthony Hayden had dismissed the “spurious” claim that the post prevented the Saudi’s estranged wife from staking a claim to a share of his £4billion fortune.

The decision was based on the fact that Mr Juffali had no prior connection to St Lucia or any apparent expertise in maritime matters.

However, the High Court’s handling of the case has come in for criticism from the Foreign Office, who fear the implications it could have for Britain’s own diplomats stationed overseas.

In a highly unusual intervention, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the recent ruling should not be “upheld or endorsed.”

Mr Juffali, whose marriage to Christina Estrada ended after 13 years, has already gone to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to have the earlier judgement overturned.

He has argued that Justice Hayden’s ruling was “deeply offensive, not least in its conclusion that his appointment … is an artifice”.

A decision is expected later this week.

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