The High Court has rejected a Saudi Arabian billionaire’s claim he holds diplomatic immunity from his wife’s maintenance bid.
After a 13 year marriage the man divorced his American wife by ‘talaq’ – an Islamic practice which permits men to end their marriages by simply saying “I divorce you” three times.
His ex-wife sought a share of his estimated £4 billion fortune. However the 60 year-old businessman became a diplomatic representative for the Caribbean island of St Lucia shortly after their divorce despite not being a citizen. The billionaire insisted he had already provided a generous settlement and claimed diplomatic immunity from his wife’s bid for further maintenance.
He asked the High Court to dismiss his wife’s claim. The former supermodel had made this under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, which allows English courts to make financial orders following a foreign divorce. His lawyers argued that her application should not be allowed to continue because as a diplomat he could not be sued in the UK.
At the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Hayden labelled the man’s appointment as “an entirely artificial construct” and called his diplomatic immunity claim “spurious”. He had “sought and obtained a diplomatic appointment with the sole intention of defeating [his wife’s] claims consequent on the breakdown of their marriage”, the judge declared.
After their argument had been rejected, the businessman’s legal team said they would appeal the decision. A spokesperson called the ruling “deeply offensive” and claimed it would “set a dangerous precedent for diplomats everywhere”.
Read the judgment in full here.