The case is expected to expose the business practices of Saudi royals and their luxurious lifestyles.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
This article titled “Saudi prince’s luxury jet sale to Colonel Gaddafi focus of London trial” was written by Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent, for guardian.co.uk on Monday 17th June 2013 12.38 UTC
Ten years after Saudi Arabia’s Prince al-Waleed bin Talal sold his customised Airbus A340 – fitted with a double bed, silver leather sofas and a whirlpool bath – to Colonel Gaddafi for $120m, a row over the commission paid will touch down in a British court.
The gaudy aircraft, put on display by rebel fighters after they captured it at Tripoli airport in 2011, became a symbol of the Libyan dictator’s private opulence.
In the high court this month, its complex history will feature in a dispute between a Jordanian businesswoman, Daad Sharab, and Waleed. The case is expected to expose the business practices of Saudi royals and their luxurious lifestyles.
Sharab, 52, claims she is owed $10m (£6.3m) in commission for the sale of the jet by the Saudi prince, one of the world’s richest men, following an agreement allegedly made in the London restaurant Ayoush in 2001.
The prince has already attracted media attention by suing Forbes magazine in London over an article published alongside its coveted Rich List, which he claims underestimated his fortune by $9.6bn (£6.1bn).
His disagreement with Sharab has taken years to reach trial stage. It is expected to be heard in the Rolls Building in central London, the scene of expensive international actions, later this month.
According to an earlier interim judgment, Sharab was called out of the blue by the prince from Cannes in August 2001. He informed her that he had two aircraft, an Airbus – built in 1996 and purchased from the Brunei government – and a Boeing 767, both of which he wanted to sell.
Later that month she met an accountant who was said to be his personal representative at Ayoush in Marylebone. The fact that the meeting, and others, took place is not disputed. At issue is whether there was an agreement to pay commission.
Sharab maintains that the following year she was instructed by the prince to begin negotiations. She set about arranging an audience with Gaddafi, whom she had known since meeting him at a business conference in Tripoli in the late 1980s.
Sharab has told the court that in April 2003 she flew to Libya and was present when the Waleed and Gaddafi met. Both planes had been delivered and Gaddafi chose the Airbus.
She has testified: “The prince told me that if I could sell the aircraft for between $100m and $110m, he would pay me the $2m commission (which had been agreed previously) but that if I was able to negotiate a sale at above $110m, I could keep anything above that US$110m.”
In the end Gaddafi agreed to pay $120m. The final payment, however, did not reach the Saudi prince until 2006. Sharab, who lives for part of the year in the UK, alleges that although she was repeatedly promised a commission, she has received nothing. For a previous deal, she says, she had received $500,000 commission from Waleed.
Gaddafi fitted out the aircraft in the colours of his Afriqiyah Airways where it was known as Afriqiyah One. It had red and grey carpets and nightclub-style spotlights on the ceiling.
In 2009 the personalised jet was used to collect the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was ill and had been released on compassionate grounds from prison in Scotland. It was also used by Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, on jaunts around the world.
Shortly before the case was due to be heard in 2010, Sharab visited Libya again. This time, after falling out with Gaddafi, she was arrested and held in a private compound. When Nato began bombing Tripoli in support of the uprising against Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, she was transferred to prison. Eventually she was freed by rebels and allowed to leave the country.
Returning to London, she had the case relisted. Waleed’s lawyers argue that there was never any agreement to pay Sharab commission for the deal. In a letter sent to her solicitors in 2006, they wrote: “We … understand your client played no part in the ultimate sale of the aircraft in question, and there is no basis for any sum to be due to her.”
During the course of the trial, experts are expected to give evidence about business negotiation practices in Saudi Arabia and Libya. Lawyers on both sides declined to comment.
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