The High Court has declined to issue an enforcement order against the estate of a Saudi billionaire after his ex-wife did not receive a multi-million pound settlement by the due deadline.
Former model Christina Estrada was married to Sheikh Walid Juffali for 12 years until he divorced her under Islamic law, following a polygamous second marriage. During the subsequent contentious court proceedings, in order to avoid conceding English jurisdiction, a move which could have left Estrada stranded, the Sheikh claimed diplomatic immunity but this argument was rejected by Mr Justice Hayden as “spurious”. An appeal heard before the Master of the Rolls confirmed that for the purposes of this divorce he was regarded as habitually resident in England and therefore was unaffected by his claimed immunity.
As the Sheikh (who was only in his 60s) lay dying of cancer at a clinic in Geneva, Christina Estrada’s claims proceeded before the High Court. Under Part III of the Family and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1984, which deals with overseas divorce, she was subsequently awarded a settlement of over £53 million, one of the largest ever granted by an English court. It was made in recognition of the “exorbitant standard of living” she had enjoyed prior to the divorce. She had originally sought more than £200 million.
The deadline for payment set at 4pm on July 29. But Dr Juffali died the week before.
Estrada’s lawyers have now informed High Court judge Mrs Justice Roberts that no payment of any kind has been received. But the Judge said she was still confident the estate of Mr Juffali would settle and pay in due course.
“I continue to stress that Dr Juffali engaged with this process though out his life time and following his death, the legal representative likely to be instructed for his estate has also engaged to the extent they have sent the court an extremely courteous letter. I hope we will get this sorted out without the need for further litigation.”
If no payment has been made by October, she continued, a further hearing will be held to decide whether or not to issue an enforcement order.
Dr Juffali’s estate is now controlled by his children, including his daughter with Estrada herself, prompting speculation that the 54 year-old might have to sue her if payment is not forthcoming.
A spokesman for Estrada, who now lives in Windsor, said she remained optimistic.
“Mrs Justice Roberts said she hoped and expected that this would be quickly resolved and we concur with this view.”