A Saudi Arabian billionaire has avoided a multi-million pound divorce claim in the UK by claiming diplomatic immunity.
The 60 year-old businessman was appointed a diplomatic representative for the Caribbean nation of St Lucia in April 2014 despite not being a citizen of the country. Although countries can name foreign nationals as diplomats, it is highly unusual. He was made an envoy to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a United Nations agency which regulates shipping.
The Times reports that he did not attend any of the IMO’s 25 meetings last year, nor did he have any experience in maritime matters prior to his appointment.
The billionaire married an American former supermodel in 2001. They lived in the UK until their marriage ended last year when he divorced her by ‘talaq’ in Saudi Arabia. A talaq is an Islamic tradition which allows men to divorce their wives quickly. They simply have to say “I divorce you” three times and the marriage is officially over.
When the former wife sought a share in her former husband’s £4 billion fortune, he cited diplomatic immunity in order to avoid court proceedings. She claimed that she had no knowledge of her husband’s appointment as an envoy until it was used to block her divorce claim.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office then tried to intervene on the former calendar model’s behalf. They requested that St Lucia waive the husband’s immunity in order to allow the case to proceed but were denied. A spokesman for the office later said that they would not comment on cases involving “individual diplomats or ongoing court proceedings”.
Photo of St Lucia by Steve Walker via Flickr