Al Gosaibi faces a fresh $8.2bn claim

The Al Gosaibi business family of Saudi Arabia faces a fresh $8.2 billion claim on its assets in the Cayman Islands.

Eric Lewis, an attorney of Bach, Robinson and Lewis.
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The al Gosaibi business family of Saudi Arabia, which is fighting a legal battle against Maan al Sanea of the Saad Group conglomerate, is facing a fresh US$8.2 billion (Dh30.11bn) claim on its assets.

Documents before the grand court of the Cayman Islands, where much of Mr al Sanea's business was registered, show that Grant Thornton, the liquidator to the biggest Saad businesses there, is planning an action to retrieve that amount from the family partnership.

The assets, Grant Thornton claims, are in the form of financial instruments, cash and land in Saudi Arabia.

The new legal twist in the Caymans is just the latest development for Ahmad Hamad Al Gosaibi and Brothers, the partnership that owns the family business. Al Gosaibi is already facing claims from bank creditors in Saudi Arabia for $2.4bn.

It comes as a Bahrain court is preparing to hear evidence against executives involved in the 2009 collapse of The International Banking Corporation and Awal, which sparked the Al Gosaibi-Saad confrontation. The first criminal hearing begins in Bahrain tomorrow.

Grant Thornton has previously been regarded as supportive of the al Gosaibi family's claims that it was the victim of a $10bn fraud perpetuated by Mr al Sanea, which he has consistently denied.

The liquidator was appointed by the court to act for creditors of the Saad companies.

The court document shows that Grant Thornton will contest Al Gosaibi's claim to be a fraud victim, and will say the partnership or individuals within it had knowledge and gave approval to Mr al Sanea in his business dealings.

Records of a case management conference held in the Caymans last month, and seen by The National, show that Grant Thornton is planning a counterclaim to Al Gosaibi's claim to recover Saad assets, with a total value of $8.2bn.

By far the bulk of that, some $6.7bn, is made up of promissory notes - corporate IOUs - that Grant Thornton claims are held by Al Gosaibi.

But there is also nearly $600 million of cash in The Money Exchange, the Saudi Arabian remittance business owned by Al Gosaibi, according to Grant Thornton. The rest is in the form of land in Saudi Arabia, it is alleged.

Grant Thornton is planning to file the counterclaim within the next six weeks. Steven Akers, the head of the firm's recovery and reorganisation practice, said: "We have determined on advice that we have a robust defence to the claims against Saad entities and will be filing a substantial defence and very substantial counterclaim in this action."

Eric Lewis, a partner at the New York law firm of Baach Robinson & Lewis, who is advising Al Gosaibi, said: "We view any counterclaim purely as a litigation tactic. Their defence is due on April 22."