Saudi prince loses $10m court battle over Gaddafi jet sale

The customised Airbus A340 at the centre of the dispute became a symbol of the Libyan dictator’s opulence.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Saudi prince loses m court battle over Gaddafi jet sale” was written by Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 31st July 2013 12.59 UTC

A billionaire Saudi prince has been ordered by the high court to pay m (£6.5m) in commission to a British-based Jordanian woman for selling his luxurious private jet to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, who owns the Savoy hotel in London, had given evidence in court playing down Daad Sharab’s role in the 0m deal with the former Libyan leader in 2005.

The prince disputed her claim that any agreement was made for a “specific commission”, saying she would have been paid at his discretion. He decided not to reward her because during the protracted sale she had “moved to the Libyan camp”.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Peter Smith explained that the dispute turned on whose evidence he accepted. Both Sharab and Al-Waleed appeared in person but the judge said he had “overwhelmingly concluded” that he preferred Sharab’s account.

The ruling is an embarrassment for the prince, who is a nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. 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 .6bn (£6.1bn). He claims he is worth bn.

Through his Kingdom Holding Company, Al-Waleed owns significant stakes in Citigroup, News Corp and Apple, among other companies. As well as the Savoy in London, he is also the owner or part-owner of the Plaza hotel in New York and the George V hotel in Paris.

Sharab, 52, said after the ruling: “Today’s decision has reinforced my belief in the fairness and impartiality of the English courts. I feel a great sense of relief … and thank Mr Justice Peter Smith for drawing a line under what has been a stressful seven years of litigation.

“However, it will be extremely disappointing if the prince fails to accept the decision of this court and yet again attempts to delay payment of the agreed fee of m.”

She was represented by Clive Freedman QC and Richard Waller at TLT Solicitors.

Her daughter, Noor Allawy, said: “I hold Saudi Arabian citizenship and I am proud to be Saudi Arabian. However, it has been very sorrowful to see a Saudi Arabian prince fighting with my mother for seven years and standing against her in court.”

The customised Airbus A340 at the centre of the dispute was fitted with a double bed, silver leather sofas and a whirlpool bath. It became a symbol of the Libyan dictator’s private opulence and was put on display by rebel fighters after they captured it at Tripoli airport in 2011.

The court was told that Sharab was initially contacted 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 restaurant in Marylebone. Sharab said 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 said that in April 2003 she flew to Libya and was present when Al-Waleed and Gaddafi met. Both planes had been delivered and Gaddafi chose the Airbus.

She testified: “The prince told me that if I could sell the aircraft for between 0m and 0m, he would pay me the m commission (which had been agreed previously) but that if I was able to negotiate a sale at above 0m, I could keep anything above that 0m.”

In the end Gaddafi agreed to pay 0m. The final payment did not reach the Saudi prince until 2006. Sharab, who lives for part of the year in the UK, said she had received 0,000 commission from Al-Waleed for a previous deal.

Gaddafi subsequently fitted out the aircraft in the colours of his Afriqiyah Airways, and it became 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 originally 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.

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