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UK judge rejects St Lucia envoy's 'spurious' diplomatic immunity
Published on February 12, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dr Walid Juffali

By Caribbean News Now contributor

LONDON, England -- A judge in London has ruled that Saudi billionaire Walid Juffali, Saint Lucia’s permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), had sought to defeat an action by his former wife by asserting a “spurious” diplomatic immunity.

According to London’s Daily Telegraph, Juffali’s name first appeared on the Diplomatic List in September 2014 as Saint Lucia’s permanent representative to the IMO.

However, there is no public record of Juffali attending any meetings of the IMO, nor does he possess any known qualifications in maritime law. The Saint Lucia government declined to say how many hours per week he spent at the country’s High Commission in London.

Last month, the government of Saint Lucia said it intended to uphold the principle of diplomatic immunity in relation to Juffali.

However, Justice Anthony Hayden found that Juffali had “not undertaken any duties of any kind” since taking up this post in 2014. The judge noted there was “no evidence” that Juffali had “any knowledge or experience of maritime matters, seaborne trade, shipping or indeed any of the specialised areas with which the IMO is concerned”.

Hayden ruled that Juffali’s “sole intention” for securing this position was to defeat his former wife’s “claims consequent on the breakdown of their marriage”. The judge concluded that Juffali had not “in any real sense, taken up his appointment” and the Saudi’s diplomatic status amounted to an “entirely artificial construct”.

He said that avoiding the “jurisdiction of this court” was the “driving force” behind Juffali becoming Saint Lucia’s representative at the IMO.

As a result, the judge declined to strike out his former wife’s bid to proceed with a financial claim, ruling that Juffali had made a “spurious assertion of diplomatic immunity”.

Juffali, the chairman of one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest conglomerates, announced an appeal against what he called a “deeply offensive” ruling.

A spokesman said that Juffali believed that no “English judge” possessed the “capacity or right to intrude on matters relating to the diplomatic arrangements and/or appointments of another state”.

The spokesman added: “If this decision is upheld, it will set a dangerous precedent for diplomats everywhere.”

On Thursday, the opposition United Workers’ Party said it “is deeply concerned that the good name of Saint Lucia continues to be dragged through the mud as a result of the actions of a stubborn and uncaring prime minister and government”.

“There is no apparent benefit to Saint Lucia so the question continues to be asked – Who benefited and how?” the UWP asked.

In turn, the government re-affirmed its view that the court proceedings is a private family matter between Juffali and his former wife, and has no bearing on his duties as permanent representative to the IMO.

The Government said it was “extremely surprised” by Monday’s judgment and specifically by Justice Hayden’s comments about Juffali’s status as Saint Lucia’s representative to the IMO.

“As a sovereign state, it is Saint Lucia’s responsibility and sole right to decide who our diplomatic representatives are or should be,” it said.

Related article:
St Lucia government upholds diplomatic immunity for Saudi billionaire
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