Posted by Patrick Hart, Partner
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Saudi businessman loses latest stage of legal tussle
A billionaire businessman secured a diplomatic post in the Caribbean in an attempt to avoid a multi-million pound divorce suit being heard in the UK, a Judge ruled this week.
Sheikh Walid Juffali had previously argued that his status as St Lucia’s representative on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) gave him general immunity from a case being pursued by his ex-wife.
Christina Estrada had described the appointment as a “flag of convenience”; she had made the point that the tycoon had not attended any of the IMO meetings held since he assumed his duties and has no known qualifications in maritime law.
Mr Justice Hayden, sitting in the family division, accepted that the claim of diplomatic immunity was spurious and ruled there was no case for having Ms Estrada’s claim struck out.
“I am satisfied that what has transpired here is that Dr Juffali has sought and obtained a diplomatic appointment with the sole intention of defeating Ms Estrada’s claims consequent on the breakdown of their marriage,” said the Judge.
“Dr Juffali has not, in any real sense, taken up his appointment, nor has he discharged any responsibilities in connection with it. It is an entirely artificial construct.”
The businessman has argued that he has already made generous provision for his ex-wife and their daughter and has confirmed he will challenge the ruling.
A spokesman said: “My client will be appealing this decision which, at its core, he believes to be deeply offensive, not least in its conclusion that his appointment to the International Maritime Organisation is an artifice.
“He does not believe that the English justice system has performed its duties in an appropriate manner in this case, nor that an English judge has the capacity or right to intrude on matters relating to the diplomatic arrangements and/or appointments of another state.”
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