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How to get your money……£53 million of it

How to get your money……£53 million of it

Published: 6 September 2016

The newspapers have been awash with news of the former Pirelli model Christina Estrada being awarded the largest ‘needs’ payment made by an English Court, £53 million, from her wealthy husband Dr Sheik Walid Juffali.

The couple married in Dubai in 2001 with Estrada giving up her modelling career to become a full time wife and has not returned to work since. The couple have one daughter together, aged 13 and is being privately educated in the UK. Juffali’s wealth derived from his family business that involved the supply of electricity and telecommunications to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In March 2012 Juffali informed Estrada he would buy her two properties, one in London and a holiday home in California, with the latter being valued at £11million. As such stories go, Juffali married his third wife in February 2012 under Islamic law, unbeknown at that time to Estrada. Juffali, in early 2013, informed Estrada he had divorced his third wife and the parties reconciled in 2013. Estrada soon became aware Juffali had not in fact divorced his third wife and Estrada sought a divorce.

Juffali subsequently obtained an Islamic divorce (Talaq) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 17th September 2014. Despite the divorce being granted abroad, Estrada was able to bring proceedings for financial relief in the English Courts. Such financial applications can be brought before the English Courts after an overseas divorce so long as a connection with England and Wales can be established.

After lengthy Court proceedings, all whilst Juffali was in the early stages of a terminal illness, in June 2016 Mrs Justice Roberts awarded Estrada £53 million in settlement of her claim and to retain her jewellery collection worth £4.8 million. The payment was due on 29th July 2016.

Unfortunately, a week before the payment was due Juffali passed away from cancer. To date no payment has been made to Estrada. Despite seeking assistance from the Court Mrs Justice Roberts ruled there was no need to issue enforcement proceedings as she was confident Juffali’s estate would make the payment due.

Estrada is therefore left in a difficult situation awaiting payment from Juffali’s estate or having to consider bringing a claim against her daughter (a beneficiary under the will) to obtain her payment. Only time will tell whether Estrada receives her payment and would hope that Estrada’s lawyers added interest to the payment.

The case highlights that English Courts are favourable when dealing with divorce owing to the large payments made (usually) to the wives. However, there has been a recent shift away from such settlement payments in medium to high net worth families – each case is fact specific, nevertheless the large payments will always dominate the media’s attention.

Vandna Sharma – Family Lawyer