THE Government of St. Lucia is claiming that a ruling this week of the United Kingdom Court of Appeal in the highly controversial Walid Juffali divorce case, vindicated its own take on the matter, specifically its decision not to comply with a British government request late last year to lift Juffali’s immunity.
On the surface, the government’s position is correct, but as we have seen so often the government has not told the full story. In overturning an earlier Supreme Court decision when the judge ruled that Juffali’s appointment as St Lucia’s permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was a sham, to shield him from having to pay his ex-wife a reasonable divorce settlement, the three Appeal Court judges also ruled that the matter of Juffali’s diplomatic immunity was not relevant to the divorce case.
In short, the Appeal Judges were saying that all the hullabaloo about Juffali’s diplomatic immunity, including the British government’s request to the St Lucia government to lift his immunity, was not worth the effort. The judges concluded that because he had resided permanently in the UK for 35 years, and the fact that the divorce claim had nothing to do with his official diplomatic functions, Juffali could not claim immunity from the divorce proceedings.
It is obvious that the St Lucia government thought it would be helping Juffali in his divorce by appointing him as St Lucia’s IMO representative because they felt he could have invoked immunity. In the end, the attempt by Juffali to avoid his ex-wife’s claim on his fortune and our government’s part in assisting him in this pursuit, have come to nothing. The Appeal Court ruling also means that his ex- wife has the right to make her claim. Juffali is reported as expressing sadness and disappointment with the ruling that went against him.
One thing this controversy has produced, however, is a debate about sham diplomatic appointments and the abuses that sometimes go with them. There was no doubt in the mind of the judge who presided over the high court case that Juffali’s appointment was “spurious”. Nevertheless, the Appeal court concluded otherwise.
But nothing about the Juffali case concerns St Lucians more than the international embarrassment it has earned this country and the fact that our government to this day has failed to acknowledge the concerns of St Lucians at home and abroad, far less address them honestly.
The Juffali appointment remains a shady deal, the details of which only came to light in the British media. No one knew of him, far less about his appointment and once the story was brought to light, the reaction of our government was to behave as though Juffali was a household name in St Lucia all along. Suddenly, they learned that there was a foreign diplomat working on their behalf named Sheik WalidJuffali. Our government has not recognized to this day that the manner of this appointment was improper and shady.
Imagine this billionaire had promised to build a centre for diabetes research in St Lucia and no announcement of this was ever made, again, not until the whole thing was blown in the British and later, the local, press. Was the research centre story developed as part of the damage control exercise?
In a country where our people are always quick to invoke motive, especially in the political arena, the government will remain tagged with suspicion over the Juffali affair. St Lucians cared little about Juffali’s divorce, far less about whether his ex-wife should benefit from his fortune. All they wanted to know was who was he and how he came to be appointed as their diplomat at the IMO.
The British Appeal Court may have sided with our government’s decision not to waive Jufali’s immunity, but in the end it has done nothing to unveil the machinations that many believe were employed in drawing this Saudi Arabian billionaire into our diplomatic pool. The more we look at this issue, the more it appears to us that the government either does not understand the full implications of the Juffali saga locally, or it believes that St Lucians will accept anything.