Former Pirelli model can lay claim to her ex-husband’s property empire
By David Blair CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT
CHRISTINA ESTRADA, the former Pirelli calendar model, came a step closer to claiming a share of her Saudi billionaire former husband’s £150million property portfolio following a High Court ruling. A judge found that Walid Juffali, who divorced Ms Estrada in 2014, had sought to defeat her action by asserting a “spurious” legal immunity based on his appointment as a Caribbean diplomat in London. Ms Estrada, who has a 13-year-old daughter with Mr Juffali, is seeking a share of his British properties. Various trusts linked to Mr Juffali own St Saviour’s House, a sevenbedroom converted church in Knightsbridge – complete with a cinema and swimming pool – valued at £50 million in 2013. They also possess Bishopsgate House, a £100million estate beside Windsor Great Park, and Matthew Point Manor, on the Devon coast, valued at £2.5million in 2007. Mr Juffali, 60, asked the High Court to strike out Ms Estrada’s claim on the grounds that he possessed legal immunity because of his career as a Caribbean diplomat. Mr Juffali appears on the London Diplomatic List as St Lucia’s “permanent representative” to the International Maritime Organisation. But Mr Justice Hayden found that Mr Juffali had “not undertaken any duties of any kind” since taking up this post in April 2014. The judge noted there was “no evidence” that Mr Juffali had “any knowledge or experience of maritime matters, seaborne trade, shipping or indeed any of the specialised areas with which the IMO is concerned”. Mr Justice Hayden ruled that Mr Juffali’s “sole intention” for securing this position was to defeat Ms Estrada’s “claims consequent on the breakdown of their marriage”. The judge concluded that Mr Juffali had not “in any real sense, taken up his appointment” and the Saudi’s diplomatic status amounted to an “entirely artificial construct”. He said that avoiding the “jurisdiction of this court” was the “driving force” behind Mr Juffali becoming St Lucia’s representative at the IMO. As a result, the judge declined to strike out Ms Estrada’s bid to proceed with a financial claim, ruling that her husband had made a “spurious assertion of diplomatic immunity”. Mr Juffali, the chairman of one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest conglomerates, announced an appeal against what he called a “deeply offensive” ruling. A spokesman said Mr Juffali believed that no “English judge” possessed the “capacity or right to intrude on matters relating to the diplomatic arrangements and/or appointments of another state”. Mr Juffali is suffering from cancer and has been treated in hospital in Switzerland. Under his previous divorce settlement with Ms Estrada, he pays her $100,000 (£69,360) a month and bought her a $12 million house in Beverly Hills. A spokesman for Ms Estrada, 53, said the former model “welcomes” the judgment.