Saudi princes fail to keep UK court case secret

Saudi princes fail to keep UK court case secret
Fri Feb 15, 2013 22:02:22

Two influential princes in Saudi Arabia have failed in an attempt to keep secret a London court case which has raised allegations of criminal wrong¬doing that their lawyers say could shatter relations between the country and western allies.

Lawyers for Prince Mishal al Saud, the former minister of defence, and his son made the claim in a legal wrangle involving a British company, Fi Call, and two of its offshore shareholders, one of which is linked to the younger prince.
Two allegations, as yet referred to only as the “Beirut” and the “Nairobi” transactions, are key to privacy arguments made by lawyers for him and his son.
If the details are made public, the younger prince, Prince Abdulaziz bin Mishal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and an associate risk “death and reprisals”, according to their lawyers’ arguments summarised in a judgment published on Wednesday.
They deny accusations surrounding alleged transactions, arguing that they are “scandalous and outrageous” and designed to damage the reputation of the princes and put pressure on them to settle the dispute.
Wider details of the allegations cannot be made public pending the outcome of an appeal by the princes, Mr Justice Morgan said in a judgment on Wednesday. The Financial Times and The Guardian opposed arguments for the case to be heard in private and asked to inspect underlying court documents.
The case could test the relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia and their respective legal systems, which were previously put into relief by the case of BAE Systems.
A probe by UK authorities into alleged corruption between that company and another Saudi prince was shut down after the British government intervened in 2006 on the grounds
that the case could threaten national security by irreparably damaging relations between the two countries.
Prince Mishal, 86, is a son of the late King Abdulaziz, the country’s founder and a senior member of the royal family.
Prince Mishal has a potentially important power-broking role as chairman of the Allegiance Council, which will preside over the succession and selection of the next crown prince following the death of the current monarch, King Abdullah, 88.
The Fi Call dispute was triggered by a 2011 petition filed in London by Global Torch, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands that is linked to Prince Abdulaziz. The petition alleged that the affairs of Fi Call “were being conducted in a manner prejudicial to the interests of Global Torch”.
Global Torch asked the court to require the sale of its shares in Fi Call to Apex, another offshore shareholder.
Apex is owned by a Jordanian businessman, Faisal Almhairat, against whom Global Torch alleges fraud. According to Wednesday’s judgment, Mr Almhairat responded by alleging that Prince Abdulaziz and an associate became “hostile” to him when he did not pay them proceeds from an earlier sale of Apex’s shares in Fi Call.
This dispute, he claims, led to Prince Abdulaziz making a complaint to Saudi authorities and Mr Almhairat being the subject of an Interpol red notice, an international arrest-and-
extradition request.
Global Torch alleged that “Mr Almhairat in particular had misappropriated funds” from Fi Call.
It claimed that the relationship between Global Torch and Apex “had been destroyed by the conduct of the Apex parties [and] exacerbated by false allegations of criminal conduct which the Apex parties had made about Global Torch and its shareholders,” according to the ruling.
Claims, counter-claims and petitions between the parties in the High Court have triggered what Mr Justice Morgan described as a “nuclear mushroom cloud of interlocutory applications.”
The princes have lodged a parallel application arguing that state, sovereign and diplomatic immunity shields them from liability in UK proceedings.
A hearing of their sovereign-immunity argument is expected later this month. They are also contesting the jurisdiction of the English court. A hearing on that issue will take place in May. Both Apex and Global Torch deny the allegations against them.

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