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EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: High Court judge slams Lord Balfour
EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: High Court judge slams Lord Balfour over his handling of super-rich heiress’s $50million fortune
He boasts a hereditary peerage, numbers two prime ministers in his family tree and enjoys membership of White’s, the starchiest of gentlemen’s clubs. But none of that, alas, has prevented the Earl of Balfour from receiving quite a drubbing in an extraordinary High Court case.
It has, I can reveal, concluded with the judge ordering that $1 million [£800,000] be returned to one of Balfour’s clients, a 98-year-old South American spinster, Belen Velutini, the oldest member of a stupendously rich Venezuelan banking family who is now afflicted by poor health and failing eyesight.
That might be embarrassing enough for Balfour, who was named last year as one of Britain’s best ‘offshore experts for high-net-worth individuals’. But it’s eclipsed by the withering summary of the case delivered by the judge, Francesca Kaye.
In it, Kaye records that Balfour sent ‘threatening’ and ‘ill-judged’ emails to Velutini’s personal assistant, Rebecca Campos. Adding that Balfour appeared to have ‘lost all perspective’, the judge categorises his emails as ‘high-handed, hostile and entirely inappropriate for an experienced trustee’.
It was a sorry development, given that Balfour, 74, and Velutini had had a ‘good business relationship’ for nearly two decades, after being introduced to each other by one of the Venezuelan’s distant relations, Charles Rack. This led to Balfour, an Old Etonian, managing trusts holding $50million of Velutini’s fortune, with Rack offering investment advice.
That might be embarrassing enough for Balfour, who was named last year as one of Britain’s best ‘offshore experts for high-net-worth individuals’
All went well until the multi-millionairess wanted to invest in a massive property development in Venezuela. When Balfour and Rack declined to transfer the required funds without a business plan – saying they were acting to protect her best interests – Velutini set about having the family trusts redrawn, so that she could direct her cash where she desired.
The court was told that, as matters unravelled, Rack left a startling voice message for Rebecca Campos: ‘Perhaps, to solve the problem, it would be better for [Velutini] to catch Covid and die soon, and that will solve a lot of problems. We can keep her inheritance because, with her alive, we won’t keep any of her inheritance. Perhaps it is a solution for her to die now.’ (The judge noted that Lord Balfour was not aware of this message at the time.)
Shocked, Velutini headed to the High Court. The judge found in her favour, sanctioned the transfer of her money to a new trust and ordered that her former trustees return $1million that they had retained to cover their own costs.
Lord Balfour, a great-great nephew of one prime minister, Arthur Balfour, and great-great-great nephew of another, Lord Salisbury, has now parted from Equiom, the firm named in the action. ‘Lord Balfour is no longer a director of any Equiom Group company,’ a spokesman tells me, ‘or connected to the Equiom Group in any way.’
Lily blooms in the New York sunshine
Last time we saw Lily James in a floral dress at a cafe, she was in Rome canoodling with The Crown star Dominic West.
This time, however, the Mamma Mia 2 star won’t be putting any marriages under strain, as she’s in New York on the shoot of film Relay.
Lily, 34, stars with Oscar-winner Riz Ahmed, whose assistance she requires to survive, in the Hollywood thriller.
After she was pictured kissing West, 53, in 2020, he was apparently forgiven by his aristocratic wife, the landscape gardener Catherine, whose father, Desmond FitzGerald, was the last Knight of Glin in Ireland.
Lily, 34, stars with Oscar-winner Riz Ahmed, whose assistance she requires to survive, in the Hollywood thriller
Acclaimed for her role in new TV drama Dreamland, set in Margate, Kent, Lily Allen has found real-life happiness in New York. The pop star, who is married to Stranger Things actor David Harbour, says: ‘We’ve been doing the house up for two years and we have these neighbours who we thought, “They’re going to hate us because we’ve been making all this noise.” But they came over with a huge hamper. It was the nicest thing anyone could do.’
Penelope’s tittle-tattle over titles
Many wives are delighted to become a Lady when their husbands receive a knighthood or a peerage. But Downton Abbey star Dame Penelope Wilton says she refused to be known as Lady Holm when she was married to the late actor Sir Ian Holm.
Dame Penelope Wilton (pictured: left), 76, who received her damehood in 2016, doesn’t use that title either
‘I didn’t think I deserved it,’ she explains. ‘I was a “Lady” only because I was married to someone who had been made a “Sir”.’
The actress, 76, who received her damehood in 2016, doesn’t use that title either.
Happily, such modesty didn’t deter her from taking part in Gyles Brandreth’s recent stage celebration of great theatrical dames, alongside Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, Maureen Lipman and Joanna Lumley.
Around half of Britain’s pubs and bars stopped selling cut-price booze through promotions several years ago in an effort to help combat binge drinking and anti-social behaviour. But Happy Hour continues at Ed Sheeran’s watering hole, Bertie Blossoms, in Notting Hill, West London, which offers two-for-one cocktails on a Friday evening. The pop superstar, 32, who opened the bar in 2019, recently revealed how his wife, Cherry, had encouraged him to cut down on his alcohol intake prior to the birth of their elder daughter. He said: ‘Two months before Lyra was born, Cherry said: “If my waters break, do you really want someone else to drive me to the hospital?” That’s when it clicked.’
Kirstie Allsopp makes no secret of how she relies on a retinue of staff to help her juggle the demands of motherhood with her career
Kirstie Allsopp, who makes no secret of how she relies on a retinue of staff to help her juggle the demands of motherhood with her career, is tired of famous ladies pretending to do everything by themselves.
‘I cannot bear the number of women in the public eye who lie about the amount of help they have,’ the 51-year-old TV presenter says.
‘One actress, who has a number of children, says it. I read an article where she says: “I don’t have anyone who stays overnight.” It wasn’t true.
‘I said to my nanny, “How does she do that?” And Heather [the nanny] said: “Because she has a night nanny who does not stay overnight but is awake throughout the night.” ’
Time to name names, Kirstie.
Sounding husky? Rory’s dog impression
Political satirist and impressionist Rory Bremner is now mimicking man’s best friend
Who says Rory Bremner’s career is going to the dogs?
The political satirist and impressionist — who is best known for Channel 4 series Bremner, Bird And Fortune, which ran for 16 series until 2010 — is now mimicking man’s best friend.
‘I do a good dog bark,’ boasts Bremner, 62, who is married to artist Tessa Campbell Fraser. ‘I can fool dogs with impressions.
‘Sometimes, in restaurants, when somebody has brought a dog and it’s really well behaved, it’s quite tempting to just go “Woof, woof, woof”, and it gets into trouble.
‘But I get into trouble from my wife, who kicks my shins at that point. I do dog impressions, but I’m not breed-specific.’
Nick Clegg appears to fear he may no longer satisfy the needs of his wife, lawyer Miriam Gonzalez Durantez. Yesterday, the former deputy prime minister, 56, sent her a link to a news article about a survey of her fellow Spaniards which discovered that nearly half of them approved of ‘polyamory’.
That’s the practice of ‘participating simultaneously in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship with the knowledge and consent of all partners’.
Miriam, 54, remarks: ‘I detect a tiny bit of nervousness!’
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