A Saudi billionaire could be on the wrong side of what could be one of the biggest divorce settlements in British history following his failed attempts to claim diplomatic immunity and avoid proceedings. Sheikh , chairman of E A Juffali and Brothers, lost his "spurious" claim in the High Court following a drawn-out battle with his ex-wife, Christina Estrada.
Juffali, who is estimated to be worth around £4bn ($5.7bn), is now being sued by the former Pirelli calendar girl after 13 years of marriage after he divorced her in his native Saudi Arabia and married a 24-year-old Lebanese television presenter without her knowledge.
Estrada, who has a 13-year-old daughter with Juffali, is now free to pursue a claim to her ex-husband's fortune, including his multi-million-pound property portfolio in the UK. Among the properties reportedly owned by Juffali include a seven-bedroom converted church in Knightsbridge valued at around £50m, a £100m estate next to Windsor Great Park that he acquired from his mother, and a "substantial" country house on the Devon coast valued at more than £2.5m, reported the Daily Telegraph.
Juffali's legal team said the tycoon already pays Estrada more than £70,000 a month, meets all the expenses of their daughter and intends to provide for her further "at the appropriate time". According to papers before the court, Estrada's claim, if successful, could potentially be worth "many millions of pounds". Juffali's legal team confirmed he would appeal the decision. Lawyers for Estrada said she was only seeking an "appropriate and fair financial settlement for herself and the parties' daughter" and the actual amount she is claiming for has not been revealed, according to the Times.
Juffali is the son of Ahmed Abdullah Juffali, the founder of E A Juffali and Brothers, one of Saudi Arabia's largest conglomerates and also holds a doctorate in neuroscience from Imperial College London. A description on the company's website reads: "Juffali's initial business was in the fields of electric power, communications and cement. These were fledgling industries in those days, and many of Juffali's early projects were truly pioneering. In fact, Juffali was instrumental in establishing the electricity grid for Jeddah."
A High Court judge threw out Juffali's claim that he warrants immunity from legal action – and the expensive legal proceedings form divorce – as he claimed diplomatic immunity for St Lucia after he was appointed a permanent representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) by the Caribbean island.
Estrada, 53, said her ex-husband's diplomatic was merely "a flag of convenience" and he had never attended a meeting of the IMO since his appointment. Judge justice agreed after finding that Juffali had "not undertaken any duties of any kind" after being appointed in the role in April 2014, and did not have any knowledge or experience of "maritime matters, seaborne trade, shipping or indeed any of the specialised areas with which the IMO is concerned".