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Ex-supermodel hails 'historic' £53m award in divorce battle

Published 08/07/2016

Christina Estrada rejected an offer which, added to her own assets, would have given her £37 million to live on
Christina Estrada rejected an offer which, added to her own assets, would have given her £37 million to live on

A former supermodel declared "we have made history today" after winning a £53 million award in a High Court divorce cash battle with her Saudi billionaire ex-husband.

Christina Estrada, 54, was fighting for £196 million from international businessman Sheikh Walid Juffali, 61, to meet her "reasonable needs".

Family judge Mrs Justice Roberts, sitting in London, said that during their 12-year marriage "extremely wealthy" Dr Juffali and Ms Estrada had enjoyed an "exorbitant standard of living" and "magical" lifestyle.

The judge said that standard of living had to be reflected in her judgment.

She ruled that, even though some of the former Pirelli calendar girl's claims were inflated and needed pruning, she was nevertheless entitled to a lump sum of £53,330,000 to meet her future needs "as she moves into an independent life outside her marriage".

Dr Juffali has been ordered to pay Ms Estrada the lump sum by 4pm on Friday July 29.

Ms Estrada's lawyers said the total settlement, taking into account her own assets, is in the region of £75 million.

She had rejected a total offer from Dr Juffali worth some £37 million. His lawyers had argued her claims were excessive and exaggerated and had entered "gasp factor" territory.

Leaving the Royal Courts of Justice in London, a "very happy and delighted" Ms Estrada said: "I guess we have made history today. Hopefully it is a precedent in a very complex and difficult situation."

Her solicitors, Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said the award of approximately £75 million is "by more than £50 million the largest needs award ever made by an English court".

The case was brought under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. This allowed Ms Estrada to apply for financial relief in England because she could not bring a case in Saudi Arabia following an Islamic divorce.

Ms Estrada said in a statement: " I am very grateful for today's ruling. I have lived in the United Kingdom since 1988 and am thankful for access to the British courts."

Thanking her legal team for their help, she said: "I never wanted to be here. I always wanted to resolve the matter amicably.

"This process has been incredibly bruising and distressing.

"Walid and I were happily married for 12 years and have a beautiful daughter together. He took both a second wife and divorced me without my knowledge.

"His use of diplomatic immunity to try and prevent me from access to a legally binding settlement set a worrying precedent.

"Having grown up in a middle-class family and having enjoyed a successful career until my marriage, I am fully aware that the spectacular life Walid and I led was immensely fortunate and rarefied.

"And I fully understand how this can be perceived in the wider world.

"My focus now is to support my daughter and move forward with our lives. For her sake and the sake of our wider family, I hope we can now resolve matters sensibly."

Dr Juffali's solicitors Mishcon de Reya issued a statement after the hearing, stating: "Dr Juffali has shown himself to be a fair man who has been prepared to offer his ex-wife a more than comfortable lifestyle for the rest of her life, which he believes she deserves.

"The sole purpose of this case was to evaluate an appropriate financial settlement based on Ms Estrada's needs, as opposed to the extraordinary demands presented by her at the start of this case."

Ms Estrada's lawyers had argued that if her claims had the "gasp factor" it was only because while married her lifestyle had been breathtaking.

It featured travel by private jet and helicopter, homes in London, Devon, Venice, Gstaad and four properties in Saudi Arabia and access to luxurious yachts.

Ms Estrada was intensively cross-examined on her claim that she needed an annual budget of more than £6 million a year to meet her reasonable needs, including £1 million a year for clothes - £40,000 for fur coats, £109,000 for haute couture dresses and £21,000 for shoes every year for white tie events.

Ms Estrada told the judge: 'I am Christina Estrada. I was a top, international model. I have lived this life. This is what I am accustomed to."

She said of her 12-year marriage: "It is difficult to convey the extraordinary level of luxury and opulence we were fortunate enough to enjoy."

Ms Estrada said she needed enough from her ex-husband to afford a luxury home in London worth about £60 million, a £4.4 million house in the country at Henley-on-Thames, as well as £495,000 for five cars - three in London and two in the US.

The judge ruled: "I am entirely satisfied that she can acquire a very comfortable (London) home with a sum of £18 million and that such a home will enable her to entertain and have her charity meetings as she does now.

"It will not be on the same scale as the entertaining she has done before but a claim anchored to needs cannot, in my judgment, ever justify unbridled spending, whatever the marital standards of living."

The judge also said she was not persuaded that Ms Estrada had made out the case for the Henley property.

The judge said: "The issue is the extent to which she should be entitled to continue with the bubble of a 'magical existence' for the foreseeable future. I am concerned with ensuring that adequate provision is made to meet her reasonable needs."

The judge added: "At the end of the day I am satisfied that, with a net annual budget of £2.5 million, the applicant (Ms Estrada) can meet her reasonable needs."

She also ruled that Ms Estrada was the "legal and beneficial" owner of a blue diamond ring, bought by Dr Juffali for four million dollars, which he denied giving her as a present.

The judge said: "I am entirely satisfied from the evidence I heard from the applicant and her witnesses that the blue diamond ring was given to her by the respondent as a gift."

She commented on Dr Juffali: "He has participated fully in the proceedings. He has complied fully with my orders and I have absolutely no reason to suppose he is not going to comply with the orders I have made now."

Ms Estrada's lawyers based her claims on the premise that her ex-husband is worth £8 billion. But Dr Juffali, who has had three wives, said in a written statement that was a grossly exaggerated "fantasy" figure and put his current net worth at about £113.8 million.

He could not attend court because of serious illness. He said in his statement that he had left the vast majority of his wealth to his three eldest children, including his daughter with Ms Estrada, now a teenager, who cannot be identified.

A US citizen who has based herself in the UK for more than two decades, Ms Estrada is currently living at Bishopsgate House, the matrimonial home bordering Windsor Great Park, which is set in 33 acres of land and has been estimated to be worth £22 million to £60 million. She also has a London flat.

The sheikh, who is terminally ill with cancer and undergoing treatment in Switzerland, divorced Ms Estrada in Saudi Arabia in 2014 under Islamic law without her knowledge.

Marriage troubles surfaced after Dr Juffali's decision in 2012 to marry a 25-year-old Lebanese model, the mother of his two youngest children, while still married to Ms Estrada. Muslim culture allows more than one wife.

Lawyers for Dr Juffali told the judge he had been generous to Ms Estrada and bought her a luxurious house in Beverly Hills and was largely responsible for her already being "a very wealthy woman" with assets of more than £20 million, sufficient to meet the needs of any 54-year-old woman.

The court heard that he was willing to go further and offer her £17 million in cash and the use of a luxurious £6.5 million home in London, in their daughter's name, for the next five years while meeting all associated costs.

The judge said Ms Estrada had described her lifestyle during the course of the marriage as "magical".

She added: "That may well be an apt description. The issue is the extent to which she should be entitled to continue with the bubble of a 'magical existence' for the foreseeable future. I am concerned with ensuring that adequate provision is made to meet her reasonable needs."

The judge ruled: "At the end of the day I am satisfied that, with a net annual budget of £2.5 million, the applicant (Ms Estrada) can meet her reasonable needs."

She also ruled that Ms Estrada was the "legal and beneficial" owner of a blue diamond ring, bought by Dr Juffali for four million dollars, which he disputed giving to her.

The judge said: "I am entirely satisfied from the evidence I heard from the applicant and her witnesses that the blue diamond ring was given to her by the respondent as a gift."

With regard to Ms Estrada's transport "needs", the judge ordered Dr Juffali to transfer to her the family Mini Clubman and transport her Lamborghini back from Switzerland to the UK, or pay her £140,000.

The cars are amongst the Bishopsgate house contents which are now to be valued.

The most valuable items there are insured for £24m. That valuation issue is being dealt with by the High Court on August 9.

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