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Saudi businessman's ex-wife bids for GBP240 million divorce settlement in E&W court

Thursday, 16 June, 2016

The former wife of Saudi businessman Walid Al-Juffali has lodged a financial remedy claim of GBP238 million against him.

It is the second largest financial remedy claim ever made in England and Wales, the largest being the GBP337 million Cooper-Hohn v Hohn case of November 2014.

Claim based on 'needs'

The England and Wales High Court will begin hearing Christina Estrada's claim on 24 June. She is claiming a lump sum, based on her 'needs' rather than the principle of equality, plus annual maintenance of GBP6.5 million.

There is disagreement over the true extent of assets controlled by Al-Juffali. Estrada claims he has access to trust and other assets of GBP6 billion, but he claims to have personal assets of only GBP20 million.

Previous court decisions

'He has already gone to extreme lengths to defend the claim', said Judith Fitton, a partner at law firm Mundays LLP. He originally petitioned for divorce in Saudi Arabia, where Estrada's settlement would have been much lower. She then won an application to have her case heard in England for financial relief following a foreign divorce, as her home is in England and their daughter is at school here.

Al-Juffali then obtained a diplomatic appointment on behalf of the Saudi government, and asserted that the position gave him immunity from his ex-wife's litigation. In February the England and Wales High Court held, however, that the appointment was spurious and that its sole purpose was to defeat her financial remedy claims (Estrada v Al-Juffali, 2016 EWHC 213 Fam).

The following month, Al-Juffali succeeded in having this judgment reversed in the Court of Appeal (COA), but it held that he was permanently resident in the UK, and agreed that Estrada could pursue her claim in the English courts (Al-Juffali v Estrada, 2016 EWCA Civ 176).

Possible outcome

The settlement is likely to be large, even if not at Cooper-Hohn levels. 'When assessing the wife's claims for maintenance, the court will have regard to the parties' standard of living, so whilst her claims may seem extreme by most people's standards, she may succeed if she can prove that this is the lifestyle she enjoyed during the marriage and it would be reasonable for that to continue', commented Fitton. 'The sharing principle will not apply to the question of maintenance – that should be decided on need alone.'

Sources