Cayman judge lifts freeze on Al-Sanea assets
London, September 22, 2011
A Cayman court has ordered a worldwide freezing order on the assets of billionaire Maan Al-Sanea be lifted, as it assesses new evidence in the Saudi businessman's multi-billion dollar legal battle with his in-laws, the Algosaibi family.
The rift in the clan, which has left some of the world's biggest banks nursing billions of dollars of losses, started in 2009 when the Algosaibi financial empire -- and Al-Sanea's -- collapsed in the wake of the credit crisis.
The Algosaibi family's Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Brothers partnership denied liability for ensuing claims from creditors, blaming Al-Sanea -- who is married to Sana Algosaibi, herself an AHAB partner -- of setting up a giant scam to defraud them.
The AHAB partnership has decided against a new attempt to freeze Al-Sanea's assets after losing a London court case against five creditor banks in June, admitting liability for the lenders' claims.
'A wrongful $9.2 billion freezing order against me has today been lifted, with the courts recognising that it should never have been imposed in the first place,' Al-Sanea said in a statement.
“The court has also ordered AHAB to pay 100 per cent of my legal fees connected with the wrongful order and to hold hearings on my damages suffered because of the wrongful order obtained by AHAB,” he said.
“Since AHAB started its litigation scheme over two years ago, I have been resolute in my complete rejection of its desperate claims that I somehow defrauded the Algosaibis by borrowing large sums of money on their behalf without their knowledge through their Money Exchange division. Courts in Bahrain, the UAE, the US, and elsewhere have rejected their claims.
“As a UK court heard when AHAB finally admitted liability in June, the Algosaibis emphatically knew of the activities of the Money Exchange and had done all along. I also made clear to the courts two years ago that AHAB's partners were hiding documents that confirmed their knowledge,” he said.
It was the first time the billionaire -- known for his lavish lifestyle and once owner of a 3 percent stake in HSBC, one of the world's largest banks -- made a substantial public statement since the start of the process.
The Algosaibis lost their fight in June against claims from five banks after new documents showed they knew more about Al-Sanea's activities than they had hitherto said.
The Algosaibis are suing Al-Sanea in the Cayman Islands, where he based many of his companies, for fraud and misappropriating money, but the case has been mired in discussions over jurisdiction.
With the new evidence -- found in a cupboard belonging to Saud Algosaibi during the London process -- the Cayman freezing order would have needed to be amended, which was not worth the trouble, an AHAB lawyer said.
The freezing order was of little practical use anyway, he said, because virtually all of Al-Sanea's assets are in Saudi Arabia which is a no-go area for foreign creditors.
'It is time to push forward and confront Al-Sanea on the merits of this fraud scheme and hold him accountable,' Eric Lewis, AHAB's main lawyer, said in a statement.
Al-Sanea's main firm is the Saad Group. - Reuters