Belén Clarisa Velutini Pérez-Matos represents the fourth of seven generations of merchants and bankers linked to the Mantuanas families that ruled the city of Caracas since the 17th century and continue to be the family group that owns the most land in Venezuela, as well as one of the enormous fortunes in Latin America.
By Special Arrangement | 8:42 GMT | 02 May 2023
The prominent civil engineer, promoter and philanthropist Belén Clarissa Velutini Pérez-Matos breathed her last in Caracas.
Balfour is a member of White's, the most stodgy of gentlemen's clubs, and he has a hereditary peerage and two prime ministers in his family tree. Nonetheless, the Earl of Balfour was still severely defeated in an unprecedented High Court case.A 98-year-old South American spinster named Belen Velutini, the eldest member of a stupendously wealthy Venezuelan banking family, who is now afflicted with poor health and failing eyesight, was one of Balfour's clients, and the judge has now ordered that $1 million [£800,000] be returned to her.
For Balfour, who just a year ago was recognised as one of Britain's top "offshore experts for high-net-worth individuals," that could be an embarrassing development. However, it is overshadowed by Judge Francesca Kaye's scathing summary of the case.
Specifically, Kaye notes that Balfour sent 'threatening' and 'ill-judged' emails to Rebecca Campos, who works as a personal assistant to Velutini. The judge describes Balfour's emails as "high-handed, hostile, and entirely inappropriate for an experienced trustee," adding that Balfour appeared to have "lost all perspective."
Balfour, 74, and Velutini, a Venezuelan banker, had a 'good business relationship' for nearly two decades before this unfortunate turn of events. Balfour, an Old Etonian, was entrusted with investing Velutini's $50 million, and Rack provided guidance on how to handle the money.
Everything was fine until the multi-millionaire decided to finance a massive real estate project in Venezuela. Velutini had the family trusts redrawn so that she could put her money where she wanted to after Balfour and Rack refused to transfer the necessary funds without a business plan, saying they were acting to protect her best interests.
It was revealed in court that as events began to spiral out of control, Rack had left a shocking voicemail 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." If she were still alive, we wouldn't be able to keep any of her inheritance. Maybe it would be best for her to pass away right now. The judge pointed out that Lord Balfour did not know about this message at the time.
Incredulous, Velutini went straight to the Supreme Court. The judge ruled in her favour, allowing the funds to be moved to a new trust and compelling the former trustees to return $1 million they had withheld to cover their own expenses.
Former Equiom CEO and great-great-great nephew of both Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and Lord Salisbury, Lord Balfour, has left the company. A representative for the company told me, "Lord Balfour is no longer a director of any Equiom Group company or connected to the Equiom Group in any way."
Lord Balfour, when questioned about Miss Velutini's long-standing prudential arrangements, said that she was 98 years old, living alone in Venezuela, and was frequently the victim of financial abuse.
He continued, “When we questioned these out of the ordinary actions, which it would have been irresponsible not to do given the history and new actors on the scene, we were hit with a writ. Our only goal was to safeguard Miss Velutini's estate for the benefit of the charities she had designated, but the court didn't agree.