Less than three people in all of Saint Lucia had ever heard of him when I called Newsspin to ask the host if he knew Saint Lucia was represented on the International Maritime Organization by a Saudi multi-billionaire named Walid Juffali. He had not, let alone that Sheik Juffali had held his position for a full year with not a word, not a word, not a word from the government about the diplomatic appointment.
Three days later, the word was everywhere. The UK’s Telegraph and the Daily Mail had broken the story that Mr. Juffali, whose religion permitted him more than one wife at a time, had been sued by his second wife Christina Estrada who was also demanding a settlement totaling multi-millions. By all the online papers told, Juffali’s lawyers had claimed he was beyond the reach of the UK courts, thanks to his diplomatic status bestowed on him by “the small island nation Saint Lucia.”
The issue soon caught political fire here, with the leader of the United Workers Party, Allen Chastanet swinging the biggest torch. What the politician wanted to know was why Saint Lucians had not known before of Mr. Juffali’s appointment. He also demanded the government explain why the island’s diplomatic representative to the IMO had never attended a single meeting of the institution.
The first the nation heard on the matter from its prime minister took the form of an attack on the motives of the UWP leader. The prime minister introduced Walid Juffali as a philanthropist who visited Saint Lucia aboard his yacht and fell in love at first sight of the Pitons. So smitten was the Saudi billionaire that he had offered to gift the island with a diabetes research center.
“Why would Chastanet not want that for Saint Lucia?” asked Kenny Anthony in campaign mode. As for the UWP leader’s demand that the government help clear the way for Christina Estrada to have her day in court, the prime minister said his government was not about to lift Juffali’s immunity, for that would set a bad precedent. He said the question whether Juffali’s immunity claim was valid should be left to the UK courts.
When finally the matter came before a judge, he said he could find no reason why Juffali’s alleged diplomatic status should stand in the way of Ms Estrada. He said it seemed clear to him that the Saudi had sought his diplomatic appointment solely for the purpose of denying his former wife the opportunity to seek redress before a court.
As it turned out, a higher court finally decided the immunity Juffali’s lawyers claimed for their client was irrelevant, since it did not apply to appointees who were also UK residents—such as Juffali. Three weeks ago the court awarded Christina Estrada a settlement of several million pounds.
Meanwhile, Juffali lay terminally ill with cancer in a Zurich hospital. Early Friday morning the Saudi reportedly succumbed. Word of his death had not yet been made public when it reached the STAR via contacts in Switzerland and London.
Said one of the sources, “Juffali wanted members of his family and other close relatives to be told before news appeared in the media.” It remains to be seen whether Juffali’s promise to Kenny Anthony will be interred with the Saudi’s bones!