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Divorce cash demands of Saudi billionaire's ex-wife 'extraordinary'

Published 10/06/2016

Christina Estrada is involved in a divorce battle with Sheikh Walid Juffali
Christina Estrada is involved in a divorce battle with Sheikh Walid Juffali

The divorce cash demands of the ex-wife of a Saudi billionaire "are firmly in 'gasp' territory", a judge has heard.

According to documents before the judge, Christina Estrada is seeking "a quarter of a billion pounds just to meet her own needs".

The former Pirelli calendar girl is due to put her full claim against Sheikh Walid Juffali, with whom she had a daughter, before High Court family judge Mrs Justice Roberts at a five-day hearing later this month, starting on June 24.

A preliminary hearing in London has revealed that the legal battle will involve an analysis of what sum Ms Estrada, 54, is entitled to in order to help her maintain her ultra-luxurious lifestyle following the end of her 13-year-marriage to Dr Juffali, 61.

Justin Warshaw QC, appearing for Dr Juffali, described her schedule of demands as "an extraordinary document - to describe her budget without resort to hyperbole is quite difficult. We are firmly in 'gasp' territory."

A massive legal costs bill has already been run up after Dr Juffali claimed he was entitled to immunity from his ex-wife's claim because of his diplomatic status as a permanent representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.

The Court of Appeal ruled he was entitled to diplomatic immunity, but as he was permanently resident in the UK he was not immune from legal action as the divorce claim did not relate to the exercise of his diplomatic duties.

Dr Juffali, who now suffers from advanced lung cancer, divorced Ms Estrada in Saudi Arabia in September 2014 via the Muslim "talaq" process. They had married in September 2001.

She obtained leave under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, which relates to overseas divorces, to make an application for financial relief in the family courts in London because she could not bring a case in Saudi Arabia .

Dr Juffali's lawyers have proposed a settlement in which Ms Estrada would receive an overall award they estimate is worth £32m.

But they say in court documents his ex-wife claims she "needs", on the face of it, a "striking, excessive and exaggerated" £238m in addition to her own assets of about £16m.

Her claim includes up to £68m for a London property ranging between 10,700 sq ft - on seven floors - up to 12,650 sq ft.

It also includes £4.4m for a Henley property - plus £495,000 for three cars in London and two in Beverly Hills, California.

She is also seeking £1.05m for art, as well as maintenance payments of £6.52m a year.

Dr Juffali's lawyers say his offer includes a lump sum of 10m dollars (about £7m) - half payable in December 2018 and the second half in December 2020.

In addition Ms Estrada would receive £2m in maintenance payments for five years. A £6.5m home would be provided for the daughter, which Ms Estrada would be able to occupy until she is 18.

The Juffali offer, it is argued, would be consistent with the approach taken to his first wife, Basma, to whom he was married for 20 years and with whom he had three children. She received 60m dollars after an English divorce.

Dr Juffali asserts his ex-wife is already independently wealthy and has her own assets worth more than £16m, including a 20m dollar (£14m) property in Beverly Hills and a £3.5m property in Kensington, London.

Their daughter is also independently wealthy and receives about 200,000 dollars (£140,000) a year from her father.

They say Ms Estrada's claims are all the more extraordinary given that the assets in the case are largely inherited or derived from the Juffali family business, started by Dr Juffali's father long before the marriage.

They maintain "generous" Dr Juffali currently provides her with 100,000 dollars (£70,000) a month living expenses.

He also provides more than 400,000 dollars (£280,000) a year to meet the running costs of the Beverly Hills property and all of the £1m annual costs of Bishopsgate House, a 10-bedroom property set in 40 acres adjoining Windsor Great Park which was the matrimonial home.

Ms Estrada's father also receives form him more than 120,000 dollars (£83,000) per annum.

Ms Estrada is likely to face intense cross-examination in court over the extent of her "needs" when the case comes on for hearing later this month.

At the preliminary hearing, it became clear that her proposed budget claims are fiercely contested.

Under scrutiny in the witness box will be her assessment in her budget document of her "needs" - from expensive designer dresses and handbags to private plane flights across the Atlantic, as well as the costs of maintaining her various homes.

The judge said: "Whether various categories of expenditure as quantified in this document are appropriate in a needs case is a matter for me."

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