Couple with links to Blairs embroiled in High Court divorce tussle

Angela Jilina and estranged journalist husband Walid Abu-Zalaf want a judge to make decisions related to when their marriage broke down.

Angela Jilina divorce case
Angela Jilina divorce case

An estranged wealthy couple with links to former prime minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie are embroiled in a High Court divorce fight.

Angela Jilina, 49, and estranged journalist husband Walid Abu-Zalaf, 64, who had homes in London and Ascot, Berkshire, and Switzerland, want a judge to make decisions related to when their marriage broke down.

Lawyers told Mr Justice Mostyn that his ruling would affect how much Ms Jilina, who comes from Russia, walks away with.

Mr Justice Mostyn began considering arguments at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Thursday.

The hearing is due to end on Friday.

Mr Justice Mostyn is expected to deliver a ruling later in the year.

Ms Jilina told the judge she had been involved with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and she and Mr Abu-Zalaf had attended the wedding of the Blairs’ daughter Kathryn three years ago.

The judge also heard Mr Blair and Ivanka Trump, daughter of former US president Donald Trump, had once been among dinner guests at their London home.

Mr Justice Mostyn was told how Ms Jilina and Mr Abu-Zalaf, editor of Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, had married in 2012.

A family court judge had granted a decree nisi in 2013, a decree which signals the end of a marriage, after an application by Ms Jilina.

Angela Jilina divorce case
Walid Abu-Zalaf, 64, the estranged journalist husband, of Angela Jilina (James Manning/PA)

But he was told the decree nisi had never been made absolute, a move which legally ends a marriage.

Ms Jilina says there was reconciliation in 2014 and the marriage finally broke down 2020.

She says the 2013 decree nisi is “now antiquated and stale”, should be rescinded, and wants to issue a fresh divorce petition.

Mr Abu-Zalaf told the judge “we never reconciled” and said they were only “technically married”.

He wants the 2013 decree nisi to be made absolute.

Mr Justice Mostyn had considered the case, after the decree nisi was granted, in 2013, and been given detail about planned financial provision for Ms Jilina.

He had explained then, in a written ruling, how he had been told then that Mr Abu-Zalaf had “net property assets” of about £13 million plus a share in a family business.

Mr Abu-Zalaf had agreed to make financial provision for Ms Jilina as part of a prenuptial agreement.

That provision depended on the length of the marriage.

The judge said for the “less than two years category” there was a “housing provision” of £2 million and said annual spousal payment was to be £96,000.

A lawyer indicated at Thursday’s hearing that Ms Jilina could benefit by an amount approaching £1 million if she won.

Angela Jilina divorce case
Angela Jilina, 49, leaves the Royal Courts of Justice (James Manning/PA)

Lawyers on Thursday asked Ms Jilina and Mr Abu-Zalaf about the nature of their relationship between 2014 and 2020, including questions about how often they had sex.

“My husband called me his wife,” Ms Jilina told the judge.

“We had a sexual relationship.

“Everywhere we went socially as I known as his wife.”

Mr Abu-Zalaf said the relationship had been “convenient”.

He said they were “technically married” but not married “in reality”.

“We never reconciled,” he said.

“We were treating each other like single people.”

He told the judge: “It was convenient for me always to go out with someone.”

The judge heard that Ms Jilina and Mr Abu-Zalaf had run up lawyers’ bills of more than £400,000.

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